YAKIMA, WA—Yesterday, Judge Thomas O. Rice of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington imposed sanctions against two large dairy factory farms in the Lower Yakima Valley for violating the Court's Order to stop polluting community water. In response to a lawsuit brought by community and environment groups, in 2015 the dairies—George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy and D&A Dairy—agreed to undertake major operational and infrastructure changes to end the facilities' pollution of groundwater. That agreement required the DeRuyter Dairies to synthetically line 13 manure storage lagoons by 2018, cease over-applying millions of gallons of liquid animal waste to their agricultural fields, remove compost from specific areas, conduct an inspection of the facilities' underground conveyance systems, and routinely provide information to the Plaintiffs in the case. On April 14, 2020, the court found DeRuyter in contempt for failing to comply with these requirements, leaving open the question of sanctions.
Charlie Tebbutt, lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, stated: "The Court recognized the severity of DeRuyter's failure to stop the pollution, and set a rigorous schedule. DeRuyter's delays have caused further contamination to the community of the Lower Yakima Valley. The Clean Drinking Water Project will continue to test people's wells and provide safe alternative sources of drinking water."
Because DeRuyter was out of compliance for several years, the Court found it necessary to impose immediate or short-term deadlines and penalties for noncompliance. As a result, DeRuyter is required to properly line 6 of the 10 manure lagoons by December 31, 2020, and the remainder by end of 2021, or face fines of $10,000 per lagoon, per month. DeRuyter may also abandon lagoons, meaning remove all waste and properly close them. The dairy is also prohibited from applying any liquid or solid manure to its fields until their nutrient levels come down to the numbers required in the court agreement, or face fines of $5,000 per field, per violation. Finally, DeRuyter is required to conduct inspection and repairs to its underground conveyance system by end of year, and may not compost manure at one of its out-of-compliance facilities.
"People who live in the Lower Yakima Valley have a right to safe drinkable water and a healthy environment and we celebrate this decision that once again vindicates that right," said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety. "Sadly, the state Department of Ecology and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have for years failed to protect this community from the harms of industrial dairies, but we won't stop until all mega-dairies are stopped from polluting our communities."
The groups are represented by the Law Offices of Charlie Tebbutt, Public Justice, Center for Food Safety, Terrell Marshall PLLC, and Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore.