Despite the threat of a lawsuit, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is continuing to improperly withhold information vital to the public health, acting in direct dereliction of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act. In December, 2012, EPA sampled groundwater in various areas surrounding five of Yakima Valley’s largest dairies. The sampling occurred as part of EPA’s further investigation into the source of the excessive nitrate contamination which EPA has already confirmed is fouling Yakima County’s groundwater. Even though EPA has been in possession of the results of that sampling for nearly three months, and has shared those results with the offending dairies, it has inexcusably opted to withhold that information from those who need it the most: the people of the Yakima Valley who are forced to consume contaminated groundwater on a daily basis. Such behavior by the EPA plainly demonstrates that the agency is acting in collusion with the offending dairies to prevent complete and timely access to governmental documents, at the expense of both the public health and the environment.
CARE and CFS made a request for EPA’s sampling records on January 29, 2013. Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, EPA was required to make a determination on that request within twenty business days. Rather than respond to the request, however, EPA has deliberately and intentionally concealed the results of the December sampling from public scrutiny. This choice by EPA is especially egregious given that the agency and the dairies are currently engaged in secret, backroom negotiations concerning the dairies’ pollution of groundwater – negotiations that have absolutely no input from the impacted residents of the Yakima Valley.
CARE and CFS are dismayed that the EPA – an agency supposedly tasked with protecting human health and the environment – has succumbed to the pressures of the dairy lobby, opting to put politics before the health of Yakima Valley residents. For too long decision-makers have cooperated with the dairy industry behind closed doors, shielding their conversations from the public’s eye. EPA’s withholding of the sampling information is just the latest chapter in this story, and provides further justification for why groups like CARE and CFS are required to act as advocates for the public health and the environment in the Yakima Valley when EPA will not.
About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS has over a quarter of a million members across the U.S., and maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
About Public Justice
Public Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights injustice and holds corporate and government wrongdoers accountable. Public Justice created the Food Safety and Health Project to hold corporations accountable for the manufacture, distribution and marketing of food and other products that endanger consumers’ safety, health and nutrition. See our website at www.publicjustice.net.
Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) is a non-profit organization based in Outlook, Washington. CARE is a grassroots organization made up of concerned community members, whose mission is to educate people about activities that endanger the health and quality of life and to advocate for actions to protect and restore the economic, social, and environmental resources of Washington.