The four dairies will now have to supply safe drinking water to people who live within one mile of their farms. They will have to control excessive manure and fertilizer runoff and test soil and groundwater to make sure the controls are working.
Nitrates come from manure and fertilizers. When they contaminate drinking water, nitrates can be harmful to children and some adults. High nitrate levels have long been a problem in the Yakima Valley.
Dennis McLerran, the regional E.P.A. administrator, said the agreement comprehensively addresses nitrate contamination.
“We think it’s in many ways a groundbreaking agreement, and it really provides a collaboration going forward on resolving the issues with nitrates in groundwater,” McLerran said.
The four dairies include: Cow Palace, George DeRuyter & Son , Liberty Dairy, and D&A Dairy. Two dairies are part of these four larger dairies and will be included: H&S Bosma Dairy is a part of Liberty Dairy. George and Margaret is a part of George DeRuyter & Son and D&A Dairy.
The steps the dairies have to take are lengthy. E.P.A. enforcement officer Ed Kowalski negotiated the agreement terms. They include:
Setting up 30 monitoring wells upgrade and downgrade from their dairy. The wells, which will be tested for eight years, will be able to tell what is going in and what is coming out of the site.
Collecting soil samples measure the amount of liquid manure dairies spray on nearby fields. (This is a common practice to use manure as crop fertilizer.)
Tracking manure when it is shipped to fields away from the dairies.
Making sure lagoon liners do not leak.
The settlement comes after an EPA study last September. The study found the dairies were a likely cause of high nitrate levels in drinking water. Yakima Valley dairies originally tried to fight the study. They said it didn’t have any scientific backing.
Two watchdog groups are currently suing the four dairies, alleging excessive nitrate pollution.
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