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WSDF seeks EPA report review, comment period extension

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The Washington State Dairy Federation (WSDF) is urging the state's dairy producers to take action before a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental report comment period ends on Nov. 30.

On Sept. 20, EPA released a report, "Relation Between Nitrate in Water Wells and Potential Sources in the Lower Yakima Valley, Washington" (available at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/gwpu/lyakimagw). After EPA issued the report, two environmental groups served several Yakima Valley, Wash. dairy farms with 90-day “Notice of Intent to Sue” letters, alleging the farms committed repeated violations of federal environmental laws.

WSDF contends the report, which states that dairy farms are the primary source of groundwater contamination in the region, “was developed using extremely poor scientific standards, leading to equally flawed conclusions.”  WSDF has assembled scientists and technical experts to develop detailed review(s) of the EPA report. WSDF has also requested that EPA extend the current public comment period deadline of Nov. 30 until all primary data used to create the EPA report is made available.

In a Nov. 20 letter to Washington producers, WSDF executive director Jay Gordon warned that the implications of the EPA report have the potential to affect all dairy farmers in the state.

“Based on their report, EPA has taken the additional step of instigating legal action against the four Yakima dairy families who voluntarily agreed to participate in the study,” Gordon said. “These dairies have been issued Consent Orders that contain a litany of costly requirements that if implemented, will likely put these farms out of business.

“These dairies, like most, have invested massive amounts of time, money and labor into implementing scientifically-based nutrient management practices that have been inspected by third party governmental organizations like the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA),” Gordon continued. “To assist them, we have been working diligently with our major cooperatives and associations in other states to create a legal defense fund so that individual producers are no longer left to fend for themselves in matters that will ultimately affect us all.”

Gordon urged Washington producers to submit personal comments regarding their environmental stewardship to EPA by the Nov. 30 deadline. The report and comment submission page can be found by entering "EPA Yakima groundwater" into your browser or by going to: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/water.nsf/gwpu/lyakimagw

He also recommended all producers make sure their nutrient management plans are up to date, asking them to contact a local conservation district or private nutrient management planner to assist with updating their plans.

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