Groups file suit against dairy

Environmental groups target Snipes dairy

— A local dairy is being sued by two environmental activist groups for its alleged effluent discharges in the area.

Community Association for Restoration of the Environment and Friends of Toppenish Creek filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington in Yakima on Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges the local dairy have repeatedly violated the federal Clean Water Act.

“For the past five years and 60 days, Snipes Mountain Dairy has discharged pollutants, and will continue to discharge pollutants, into the waters of the United States,” the lawsuit alleges.

The discharges violate effluent standards prescribed in the dairy’s concentrated animal feeding operation permit.

“Snipes Mountain’s ‘waste storage facilities,’ or lagoons, have discharged process wastewater to the groundwater underlying the facility,” the lawsuit alleges. “Upon information and belief, Snipes Mountain’s lagoons are unlined, inadequately lined, and are without an appropriate leak detection system to prevent the downward migration of seepage.”

The lawsuit also alleges the dairy keeps its manure lagoons at capacity, regularly exceeds maximum pollution regulations and applies contaminated manure to its fields.

“The agricultural fields to which Snipes Mountain applies manure have contaminant concentrations of nitrate and phosphorus in saturated soils,” the lawsuit alleges. “The concentrations of nitrate and phosphorous are too great to be used by any crop for fertilization.”

The lawsuit comes more than a month after a berm failed at another dairy, DeRuyter Brothers Dairy at 431 Nichols Road. Effluent from that failed berm then inundated manure-fertilized fields operated by Snipes Mountain Dairy.

That flood prompted health officials to evacuate some residents and advise others to refrain from using potable water systems and wells. Bottled water was provided to residents of about 12 homes near the dairy.

The lawsuit alleges that the flood waters carried contaminants into Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District canals, the Granger Drain and the Yakima River.

The lawsuit requests the court to find Snipes Mountain in violation of its permit and the federal Clean Water Act and order injunctive relief, including fees, costs and the “maximum daily civil penalty allowed.”

The attorneys for the plaintiffs are Charles M. Tebbutt of Eugene, Ore.; Andrea K. Rodgers and Toby J. Marshall, both of Seattle.

This isn’t the first time Friends of Toppenish Creek has filed a lawsuit against agricultural interests and health organizations in the area.

The Yakama Nation group settled a lawsuit in January against the Indian Health Service for allegedly failing to respond to records requests about groundwater nitrate pollution issues.

The group has also challenged manure application standards and led “poop tours” of the area’s manure lagoons.



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