January 8, 2004 (ENS): U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency Region 5 and the Sierra Club have reached an
agreement with a dairy in western Michigan to settle
alleged water pollution violations resulting from the
discharge of manure and other pollutants into public
Separate EPA and Sierra Club lawsuits against Walnutdale
Farms Inc. and owners Ralph and Kevin Lettinga of Wayland,
Michigan, were consolidated by the court.
As part of the court settlement filed December 22,
2003, Walnutdale Farms and the Lettingas will build
and use a retention pond to store contaminated runoff
from the dairy for 180 days and develop a plan for approval
by EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality to manage and dispose of all wastes from the
dairy without polluting nearby waterways.
In addition, they will pay $100,000 plus interest over
a four year period, with half the amount being paid
to the United States as a civil penalty and the other
half to the Sierra Club in partial reimbursement of
"EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality have been working with the dairy to help it
meet Clean Water Act requirements," said EPA Water
Division director Jo-Lynn Traub. "The dairy's owners
have been extremely cooperative and have already made
several improvements to prevent water pollution from
Walnutdale Farms has more than 700 dairy cattle which
are confined, fed and maintained within several freestall
barns. The dairy now has obtained a Michigan wastewater
discharge permit - the first ever issued by the state
to a concentrated animal feeding operation.
In October 2002, the EPA filed suit against Walnutdale
Farms and the Lettingas under the Clean Water Act, alleging
that manure and other pollutants were being unlawfully
discharged into a farm drain and then into the Red Run
Drain, a tributary of the Rabbit River.
Discharges of manure and other wastes from feedlots
may kill fish, cause infectious diseases in people,
lead to excessive algae growth and upset the balance
of life in streams and lakes, the agency says.
Under a preliminary settlement with the Sierra Club,
the dairy has constructed a manure storage lagoon, which
allows the dairy to store manure over the winter months
rather than spreading it on frozen fields.
In the past, according to the complaints filed by EPA
and the Sierra Club, manure accumulated on frozen or
snowy ground would run off into Red Run Drain during
the spring thaw. These improvements have already resulted
in improved water quality in the Red Run Drain, the
There will be a 30 day public comment period before
the settlement is finalized by the court.