YAKIMA -- A federal judge has ordered an Eastern Washington industrial dairy to conduct ground water monitoring and empty its waste water lagoons each year after finding the dairy caused or contributed to contamination in the area.
U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko issued the order this week requiring Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal City to take a number of steps, including installing wells to monitor ground water contamination, tracking the application of manure on neighboring fields, and emptying and testing lagoons.
The community action group CARE, Community Association for Restoration of the Environment, had claimed the dairy violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws and failed to abide by the terms of a deal that was reached with the dairy's previous owners to improve operations.
CARE initially filed the lawsuit in 2004 against Smith Brothers of Kent. Nelson Faria purchased the Royal City dairy from Smith Brothers for $16 million in 2006 and was obligated to operate the dairy under the terms of the settlement.
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"It is now time for the agencies who are supposed to be protecting our health to follow the precedent set by this order," said CARE President Helen Reddout in a statement Friday.
John Nelson, a Spokane attorney for the dairy, did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
The Faria family owns and leases several dairies in New Mexico, Washington and Texas, including a 7,000-cow operation in Dumas, Texas, that employs one of the largest milking facilities in the country.
The dairy in Royal City, about 75 miles northwest of Kennewick, has more than 3,000 cows and consists of four large barns, several lagoons and multiple feedlots.
Suko ruled Dec. 30 that the dairy failed to operate with a Clean Water Act permit and had committed numerous violations of the settlement agreement.
CARE has filed similar lawsuits against other large dairies in the Yakima Valley, where nitrogen-rich fertilizers, manure and leaking septic systems are among the potential causes of excessive levels of nitrates in ground water.
Last fall, the Washington Department of Ecology approved about $300,000 to help Yakima County develop a ground water management program to address the problem.