Rigby herd still quarantined

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) -- A Rigby rancher is still keeping a herd of cattle quarantined after a cow in the herd tested positive for the infectious bacterial disease brucellosis late last year.

Since late November, seven cows in Keith Lewis' herd have tested positive for the disease, which can cause cattle to abort. Each of the infected animals has been removed from the herd and either killed or penned in a feedlot in Rigby.

The Post Register reports a test in May yielded no positive results for the rest of the herd.

Idaho Department of Agriculture state veterinarian Bill Barton says Lewis' herd is unlikely to spread the disease to other livestock because the fenced area in which they are being held is separated from any other pastures on the range.

The original source of brucellosis in Lewis' herd is unclear.

Simplot told to stop polluting

BOISE (AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the largest privately owned company in Idaho to stop discharging fecal bacteria into Snake River tributaries.

The EPA says inspections found that the Simplot Co. feedlot near Grand View was discharging pollutants, including nitrogen and phosphorus from animal manure, into the streams in violation of their permit.

Simplot has 10 days to notify the EPA on whether they can comply with the order.

The company confines between 30,000 and 65,000 cattle year round at the complex, which encompasses nearly 700 acres in southern Idaho.

Judge approves lumber mill sale

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho (AP) -- A judge in northern Idaho has authorized the sale of Three Rivers Timber Inc. at Kamiah to a Seattle commercial fisherman.

Second District Judge John H. Bradbury on June 11 signed the order allowing Michael Burns to pay $2.65 million to acquire the real estate and equipment from the mill that shut down in November 2008.

Bradbury also ruled that the deal cannot be finalized before noon on June 21. That gives Portland, Ore.-based Iverness Inc., the company administering the assets of the defunct mill, time to accept a higher bid if it is more than $2.8 million.

Wells Fargo foreclosed on former owners William and Shirley Mulligan for defaulting on millions of dollars in loans.

Inverness had been trying to sell the property for $6 million.

EPA: Company must halt poison gas at SE Idaho site

BOISE (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on June 14 ordered a chemical company to halt toxic, explosive gases leaking from a southeastern Idaho Superfund site that toxicologists concluded were an "urgent public health hazard."

Philadelphia-based FMC Corp. operated a phosphorous production plant from 1949 to 2001 on the Eastern Michaud Flats area west of Pocatello, on the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Reservation.

Nearly a decade after FMC mothballed the operation, however, its capped ponds continue to produce phosphine gas that smells of rotten fish and can damage respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal systems, and the heart, liver and kidneys.

The EPA in April began investigating leaks after learning that FMC and its contractors had detected concentrations at dangerous levels, said Greg Weigel, an EPA Superfund coordinator in Idaho. A meter that measured phosphine in the air at breathing height near Pond 15S was "maxed out," though no cases of sickness or injury were reported.

"Prior to April, we had no knowledge there was a problem at Pond 15S -- or any of the other ponds," Weigel said. "If phosphine gas is being generated, it's collecting under the cap. Once it collects to a high enough concentration, it tends to find the pathway of least resistance to leak out."

FMC, where former U.S. Interior secretary and Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was once a lobbyist and is now on the board of directors, didn't immediately return a phone call June 14 seeking comment.

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