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EPA acts to protect Puget Sound shellfish beds from manure runoff, fines Lynden dairy

Release Date: 03/26/2015
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

(Seattle—March 26, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a compliance order and $7,500 penalty to R. Bajema Farm for violations of the Clean Water Act. During a 2013 inspection of the Lynden, Washington dairy farm, EPA staff observed the discharge of water polluted with animal waste to a ditch that flows into Fishtrap Creek and the Nooksack River, which empties into North Puget Sound near shellfish beds.

The facility has agreed to update and follow its Nutrient Management Plan and correct issues causing discharges from confinement areas. Concentrated animal feeding operations and other agricultural facilities that discharge to surface waters must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. R. Bajema Farm confined 350 mature dairy cows at the time of inspection and did not have a permit.

“For both industries to thrive, agriculture and shellfish farms must coexist,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in the EPA Seattle office. “Many agricultural facilities in Whatcom County are already helping to protect downstream Puget Sound shellfish farms by using tools that allow them to apply manure at the right time, in the right place, in the right amount, which minimizes polluted runoff. EPA will enforce water quality laws if facilities fail to comply with basic, environmentally protective regulations.”

R. Bajema Farm also drew the attention of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which issued a civil penalty in 2014 for a discharge of runoff from an area of land where the owner had applied manure.

Shellfish beds in North Puget Sound depend on clean water and are struggling because of fecal coliform pollution running downstream into Puget Sound. Fecal coliform originates from multiple sources including wastewater treatment plants, poorly managed septic systems, application of manure to fields, and agricultural facilities such as livestock operations, poultry farms, and dairy farms.

Water contaminated with fecal coliform drains from land into creeks and rivers, making its way into Puget Sound where the fecal coliform can contaminate shellfish. When fecal coliform levels rise, shellfish bed operators cannot harvest because the shellfish pose a risk to consumers.

The Lummi Nation has been particularly impacted by shellfish bed closures with millions of dollars in economic loss.

According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, there are 106 dairies in Whatcom County with 44,000 mature animals and 16,000 replacement stock that generate millions of pounds of manure each year. In addition, there are agricultural operations such as feedlots, heifer replacement facilities, poultry farms and hobby farms where manure must be managed carefully.

Operators of agricultural facilities can refer to manure spreading advisories and mapping that allows them to minimize the risk of runoff by deciding when and where to spread manure based on weather, soil conditions, soil type, field slope, equipment used, and the type of field.

In addition, state and local agencies have hosted well-attended workshops on environmentally protective dairy nutrient management. The events covered rules and regulations, irrigation water management and identification and management of high-risk areas.

For more information on manure handling systems, visit http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/dairymanure.html

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