Religious commune denies manure runoff, considers moving feedlot
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Washington state has ordered a Hutterian community in Spokane County, Wash., to obtain a permit for its feedlot.
Department of Ecology officials sent an order to the Reardan, Wash., Spokane Hutterian Brethren on April 8.
In March 2009, the department found that runoff from the feedlot was being discharged into a small pond, according to department documents. In turn, water from the pond overflowed into a larger reservoir downstream, which is part of an unnamed tributary of Deep Creek, the documents state.
Jani Gilbert, department communications manager for Eastern Washington, said the Hutterians must apply for a permit to discharge into waterways.
They have been designated a "significant contributor," which requires a permit. Large operations must get a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation general permit, Gilbert said. The state ordered the Hutterians to apply to the department for coverage under the CAFO general permit.
"They were required to get an application to us last August and did not," Gilbert said. "They've been operating without a permit."
The Hutterians must apply by early July or they will not be able to discharge waste, she said.
William Gross, general manager of the Spokane Hutterian Brethren farm, said he isn't sure what the brethren will do. It's still up for discussion, he said. The group plans to move the feeding area to another site, he said. If they don't move, they may appeal the order.
"All we know is it was overblown too much and not quite fair the way they did it," he said.
Hutterians are a religious group that believe in the community of goods, sharing material things in common. They share common origins with the Amish and Mennonites.
Gross said the Hutterians never saw any runoff into the pond. There may be the potential for that to happen, he said, but it has never occurred.
The Hutterians have 250 to 300 cattle, Gross said.
Producers with cattle and any kind of discharge into a stream, river or lake must have a permit, Gilbert said.
Washington Department of Ecology: www.ecy.wa.gov
Hutterian Brethren: www.hutterianbrethren.com