EPA Files Complaint Against Maine Dairy Farm to Require Compliance with Clean Water Standards
Release Date: 01/29/2007
Contact Information: David Deegan (617) 918-1017
(Boston, Mass. – Jan. 29, 2007) - United States Attorney Paula D. Silsby and Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New England Office, announce that a civil complaint has been filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine against Country Acres Farm, Inc., for violating federal Clean Water Act requirements while operating a dairy farm, in Dixmont, Maine. The EPA is seeking penalties and an injunction requesting the Court to enforce requirements to cease the farm’s unlawful discharge of manure and contaminated wastewater into nearby waters.
“The vast majority of New England farmers manage their waste streams with care and operate in compliance with environmental rules”, said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “However, in this case, where Country Acres Farm showed an egregious disregard for the law and failed to take necessary actions to stop its manure wastes from impacting nearby waterways, EPA has found that federal court oversight is warranted.”
“This enforcement action underscores the principle that everyone needs to follow the law and respect our natural resources," stated David P. Littell, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The case was brought after EPA, DEP and Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources (DAFRR), made repeated efforts over several years to bring the farm into compliance with water pollution laws. The action originated from observations by staff from the DEP and DAFRR last October, when investigators observed manure contamination coming from Country Acre’s 250-300 herd dairy farm discharging to Martin Stream. Water samples taken at the time showed highly elevated levels of contaminants, including ammonia, solids, and elevated biological oxygen demand, in Martin stream.
The complaint cites serious potential water quality impacts that may be caused by such contamination including: widespread mortality to fish populations; compromising the safety of receiving waters for contact recreation; impairment of the macroinvertebrate community (which is a critical source of food for the fish community); and potential loss of fish spawning habitat.
Over the last four months, DEP issued three separate state “Notices of Violation,” the farm’s provisional Livestock Operating Permit was revoked by DAFRR, and EPA issued a federal Administrative Compliance Order in Dec. 2006.
The filing of the federal complaint comes as a result of close cooperation between EPA, DEP, DAFRR and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). State investigators documented several other occasions that storm water runoff, waste waters and manure had not been adequately contained in the farm’s manure pits, and has contaminated Martin Stream and wetlands adjacent to the farm. Inspectors observed evidence of discharges and documented that the facility’s controls were inadequate to prevent runoff of manure and wastewater from the barns and lagoon.
Country Acres Farm is considered a “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” (CAFO) that is regulated under the federal Clean Water Act. The farm was issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit by Maine DEP on August 15, 2006, to regulate the discharge of manure and other pollutants that can be carried in the runoff from the farm and are known to contaminate streams, lakes and ponds. Manure and wastewater from CAFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics and ammonia to the environment. Under the federal Clean Water Act, the facility faces fines of up to $32,500 per day of violation.
EPA's enforcement program in New England (epa.gov/region1/enforcement/index.html)
EPA's oversight of CAFOs (epa.gov/agriculture/anafoidx.html)
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