Judge backs Lost Valley dairy’s wastewater remedies

The Lost Valley Farm dairy outside of Boardman. A judge in Portland Aug. 30 sided with the dairy and rejected the Oregon Department of Agriculture's request to halt wastewater production.

PORTLAND — An Oregon judge has sided with a controversial dairy’s remedies for violating a settlement deal over wastewater management.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye agreed on Aug. 30 to a proposal by Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., to increase storage space in its manure lagoons by recycling its wastewater.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture had requested that the facility be required to scrape manure from dairy barns rather than wash it away, which the agency argued would be accomplished more simply and quickly.

“We think it’s achievable on a short timeline,” said Nina Englander, an attorney representing Oregon’s farm regulators.

Elizabeth Howard, the dairy’s attorney, argued that scraping barns would create manure piles with the potential for further water quality problems.

“There are a lot of opportunities there for incidental discharges,” she said. “We don’t want to be going backwards. We don’t want to be having more discharges.”

A week earlier, the judge found the dairy’s owner, Greg te Velde, in contempt of court for violating a judgment requiring the facility to maintain at least 75 acre feet of manure storage capacity at the site.

However, Skye did not agree to ODA’s request to sanction the dairy by halting all wastewater production, effectively putting it out of business.

Aside from allowing the dairy to recycle wastewater, the judge also agreed with its proposal to install multiple flow meters to measure wastewater production.

The dairy will also be required to install a weather station at the site, among other conditions.

The judge warned te Velde that the consequences would be harsher if the wastewater recycling doesn’t create enough storage in manure lagoons, results in leaks or causes other issues.

“If I allow it to do it your way, I’m probably going to be harder on you,” she said.

The dairy has until Oct. 5 to switch to recycling wastewater and to have a plan for installing flow meters.

It must also have at least 75 acre-feet of storage capacity in its lagoons by Nov. 6 or face the possibility of a reduction in its herd size.

“We can’t just allow this to go out of compliance all winter,” Skye said.

The ODA had wanted the dairy to stop producing all wastewater if it doesn’t live up to the remedies, since the agency is “at the end of its rope.”

“A big hammer has historically been necessary to get any movement,” said Englander.

However, the judge said she preferred to scale down the herd size so the dairy could demonstrate its methods are effective at improving wastewater management.

Lost Valley Farm has repeatedly been cited by ODA for spills and other violations of its “confined animal feeding operation” permit since it began operating in April 2017.

The agency fined the dairy more than $10,000 and sought a temporary restraining order to shut the facility down, resulting in the settlement deal over wastewater in March.

The ODA then sought a contempt of court order for te Velde, arguing he had willfully disregarded the agreement.

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