By STEVE BROWN
LYNDEN, Wash. -- A Whatcom County dairy plans to appeal a $17,000 fine assessed against it for allegedly improperly applying manure to a field and allowing waste water to flow into salmon habitat.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture on April 4 cited Edaleen Dairy in Lynden for two violations of the state's Water Pollution Control Act after inspections that began in November 2012.
Mitch Moorlag, the dairy's general manager, said his company has started the appeals process, which allows it 30 days to opt for either a potential settlement hearing or to proceed directly to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board. The dairy will likely choose the first option, he said.
"We welcome WSDA's role in helping local businesses to enhance the environment we all share, and we are working cooperatively with the agency in this matter," the dairy wrote in a statement. "Edaleen Dairy has already taken action to address the decision-making that resulted in the misapplication of fertilizer to a field. We are also surveying our equipment to ensure -- as much as is humanly possible -- that it remains in perfect operating condition."
The WSDA inspection was prompted by a complaint that a worker was improperly applying manure to a field in the rain, which can accelerate manure nutrients leaching into groundwater or lead to runoff into ditches and streams.
A WSDA inspector visited the dairy twice over the next few days and found that material from the dairy's manure digester, called digestate, had been applied to a field saturated with water. The inspector also found standing water in some areas of the field and evidence that water containing digestate had flowed into a nearby ditch. This violation included a $9,000 fine.
Moorlag said the misapplication was a one-time event, caused by "miscommunication between manager and employee on the application."
The inspector also found a leaking valve in a waste water system that allowed water containing fecal matter at rates in excess of state regulations to leak into ditches that lead to Bertrand Creek, which is both salmon habitat and a human recreation area. This violation included an $8,000 fine.
The dairy, established in 1975, milks 2,500 Holsteins and employs 80 people. It produces and processes milk and ice cream, distributing them through its stores and other grocers.
WSDA spokesmen said the dairy has been cooperative in addressing issues raised through the inspections.
Inspectors with the WSDA Nutrient Management Program program visit all of the state's dairies about once every 22 months to examine how dairy owners manage manure and clean water on their property. Inspectors also review soil tests, manure nutrient analysis results, manure application and movement off farm, and irrigation records.