California dairies cited for air pollution

LOS ANGELES, California, August 4, 2004 (ENS): Five dairies in California's Chino Basin were held in contempt of court last week for failing to implement a pilot project to reduce noxious air pollution from cow manure.

Federal district court Judge Virginia Phillips held the five dairies in contempt because they failed to implement a pilot project to cover their wastewater lagoons and to measure the effect on air quality.

The pilot project was part of November 2002 consent decrees the dairies filed to settle charges by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Defend the Bay that manure laden water discharges from the dairies violate federal environmental laws.

Dairies in Chino and across the nation commonly use open lagoons, which can emit numerous air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.

Studies suggest that pollutants emitted from large dairies can cause headaches, respiratory problems, and mood alterations, and contribute to poor air quality throughout the Chino Basin. Chino is located in San Bernardino County - a part of the South Coast Air Basin that has the worst air quality in the nation.

Under the contempt order, the dairies will be fined $500 per day, beginning August 13, for each day they fail to submit to the court ordered detailed plans and schedules for implementing the pilot project. The fines double every two weeks.

The dairies include Desperado Dairy, Ben Vander Laan Dairy, L&M Dairy, Gorzeman Family Dairy, and Gorzeman Dairy No. 2.

"A federal court ordered these dairies to work on ways to stop stinking up Southern California," said attorney David Beckman, who directs NRDC's Coastal Water Project based in Los Angeles. "Until now, the dairies have reneged on their promises to us and ignored the order of the court, but fines totaling $17,500 per week should get their attention."

Two of the dairies - Desperado Diary and Ben Vander Laan Dairy - have also been found in contempt for failing to develop an Environmental Management Plan to safely handle in an environmentally sound manner all the manure-laden waste water and storm water runoff generated by their dairies.

"With all five dairies now in contempt and two in contempt twice over, maybe dairy operators throughout the Chino Basin and California will pay more attention to their obligations under federal and state environmental laws to protect public health and our precious natural resources," said Defend the Bay founding director Robert Caustin, whose organization works to protect Newport Bay and Orange County coastal waters.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is considering new rules to reduce air pollution from Southern California dairies.

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