Washington State Department of Agriculture
A Whatcom County, Wash., dairy farmer, accused earlier this year of animal cruelty, has been fined $8,000 by the state Department of Agriculture for polluting water.
Manure from a lagoon at Seth Snook’s dairy overflowed into a wet field in March and drained into roadside ditches, a creek and eventually Birch Bay near the Canadian border, according to WSDA.
Water collected in the ditches had high levels of fecal coliform on three different days spanning about three weeks, the department reported.
Snook was fined twice by WSDA for similar violations of the state Dairy Nutrient Management Act in 2014, and that factored in when determining the severity of the penalty, according to WSDA.
Efforts to contact Snook were unsuccessful. He can appeal the fine, which was issued Oct. 24, to the Pollution Control Hearings Board.
According to WSDA records, a department inspector went to Snook’s dairy on March 24 to check a complaint that manure was spilling from an above-ground structure. The inspector reported seeing signs that manure had topped the structure and saw manure overflowing from a lagoon.
The manure reached two ditches, which drain into Terrell Creek, according to WSDA.
While WSDA was inspecting water-quality violations, animal-control authorities confiscated about two dozen cattle from Snook’s dairy. Authorities alleged that the animals were starving and most were euthanized. Snook was charged with five counts of felony animal cruelty, but the charges were sharply reduced in July, and a judge ordered authorities to return Snook’s surviving animals.
Whatcom County prosecutors agreed to drop three of the charges and reduce the remaining two to gross misdemeanors. Prosecutors also agreed not to pursue a conviction if Snook takes care of the animals. Snook was prepared to argue at a trial that animal-control officials were too hasty in euthanizing his cattle.
WSDA’s fine is unrelated to the animal-cruelty charges.