The Washington Department of Ecology has fined a Walla Walla County feedlot $24,000 for an alleged air pollution violation.
The department alleges beef cattle feeding operation Simplot Feeders LLP violated air quality rules when it released large amounts of dust into the air while grinding hay in March 2014.
Simplot spokesperson David Cuoio declined to comment.
The company has 30 days to appeal the fine to the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Brook Beeler, communication manager for Ecology in Spokane, said fines are based on a number of contributing factors. The agency can fine for up to $10,000 per violation per day, but the maximum violation is not typically reached, she said.
“In this case, the fine is based on three individual violations that added up to the $24,000 total,” Beeler said.
According to an Ecology press release, inspectors observed particle pollution above limits allowed in the company’s air quality permit for the feedlot and outside the property boundary. Simplot’s permit requires the dust to be controlled by an air filter and remain within the feedlot property boundary.
In calculating a fine, the agency considers whether a company knew better, among other factors, Beeler said. The agency had received complaints about the company before.
Beeler said hay grinding produces dust, which is a typical pollution problem, especially in the Wallula, Wash., area. Walla Walla County has a problem with dust and has not attained dust standards in the past, she said.
“For this sort of operation, dust from hay grinding and dust from manure are common sources,” she said.
According to the agency, Simplot recently upgraded equipment but underestimated the dust the new hay grinding would release into the air.
Beeler said the company is already working to modify its operation to reduce the amount of dust released by hay-grinding activities. Options include installing air filters on grinders or enclosing the hay grinding from outside air completely.
If the company makes those changes, they must still pay the penalty, Beeler said.