Washington state dairy says it meets agreement

By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI

Capital Press

An environmental group has renewed its legal attack against a dairy farm in central Washington, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws.

A federal judge has reopened the lawsuit between Community Association for the Restoration of the Environment, or CARE, and the Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal City, Wash.

The case was settled in 2006, but CARE claims the dairy has failed to abide by the terms of a consent decree that halted the litigation.

The group wants a federal judge to hold the dairy in contempt of court and require the company to "disgorge the economic benefits it has achieved through consent decree non-compliance," according to a court document. The group also wants the dairy to be subject to fines of $37,500 per day for violating the Clean Water Act and compensate CARE for its legal costs.

Brian Iller, an attorney for Nelson Faria Dairy, said the company's management has been "as good or better" than the consent decree specifies.

CARE initially filed a legal complaint against the dairy in 2004, when the facility was owned by Smith Brothers Farms, of Kent, Wash. According to the complaint, the dairy was unlawfully discharging animal waste into streams and canals that ultimately fed into the Columbia River. The complaint also claimed the dairy released ammonia and hydrogen sulfide gases at levels that must be reported to federal authorities.

While denying the allegations, Smith Brothers Farms agreed to make improvements to the facility, such as installing a new composting system and mechanical aerators for the lagoon.

The dairy also paid $150,000 to compensate CARE for attorney fees and allowed the group to periodically inspect the facility and its records, among other conditions.

Several months after the case was settled in May 2006, the dairy was taken over by Nelson Faria, who was obligated to run the operation under the consent decree's terms.

CARE alleges that Faria expanded the herd size in violation of the agreement and has been applying excessive amounts of manure to farm fields, causing runoff into waterways.

The group also claims the dairy hasn't been using equipment installed as part of the consent decree and has not been keeping the required water quality records.

Faria claims that he "incurred substantial costs to improve the dairy's physical infrastructure, reducing odor and improving nutrient handling -- conduct not required by the consent decree," according to a court document.

CARE was notified whenever the dairy's management was altered, but never complained about the changes until shortly before the consent decree was due to expire, according to the document.

"The dairy has been operated in good faith and with the best intentions to improve its operations at all times, and has had substantial success in its efforts," Faria said in the document.

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