Washington dairies challenge EPA groundwater pollution study

A dispute between Washington state dairies and the Environmental Protection Agency over groundwater contamination is being argued in federal court.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reported Sunday that a 2012 EPA study linked a handful of dairies near Granger and Sunnyside to groundwater pollution. But the dairy industry says the study was flawed and earlier this year the Washington State Dairy Federation and the impacted dairies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the findings. The study identifies a group of dairies, known as the “dairy cluster,” as a source of high nitrates in nearby wells. Nitrates naturally occur in soil, but heavy use of fertilizers, including animal manure, and leaky septic tanks increase nitrate concentrations and pose health risks. The study led to a decree that required the dairies to install double synthetic liners in manure storage ponds and reduce the amount of manure applied to fields as fertilizer.

Dan Wood, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, said the dairies and the federation believe the study did not receive a full peer review. EPA officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. (AP)

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