For Immediate Release Contact: Aaron Isherwood 415-997-54680
January 8, 2004 Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372
Sierra Club victory ensures cleaner water for Michigan residents
Walnutdale Farms must stop dumping animal waste into rivers
Anglers on the Little Rabbit River will enjoy cleaner waters as a result of the settlement of litigation brought by the Sierra Club against one of Michigan’s worst polluting animal factories. A settlement agreement in the case against Walnutdale Farms, a concentrated dairy operation located near Wayland in Allegan County, levies a $50,000 fine and sets strict requirements and time tables for the operation’s clean up and continued compliance with state and federal water quality laws. The US Environmental Protection Agency intervened on behalf of the Sierra Club in October and is a party to the settlement as well.
“The Walnutdale Farms settlement is a major step in Sierra Club’s effort to hold large scale animal factories responsible for the damage they have done to their neighbors and communities downstream,” said Aaron Isherwood, staff attorney for the Sierra Club. “Significant changes have already been made at the operation as a result of our litigation, and any future violations will be met with substantial fines and enforcement action as well. Families downstream can feel safer because of the success of Sierra Club’s efforts.”
“Sierra Club’s lawsuit against Walnutdale Farms provides a thumbnail history of our fight to bring animal factories and the State of Michigan into line with state and federal environmental laws,” said Anne Woiwode, director of the Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter. “The Walnutdale Farms case makes it clear that stopping pollution from animal factories can be a reality if our state has the guts to demand it.”
The Sierra Club sued Walnutdale Farms in November 2000 after eight years of citations by the Michigan DEQ for violations of state and federal water pollution laws failed to halt contamination of the Little Rabbit River and its tributaries. The dairy operation polluted the waterways by allowing manure and other dairy wastes to wash into streams from the livestock barns and production area, and manure contaminated run-off to flow off frozen and snow-covered farm fields.
After an initial refusal to accept the court’s jurisdiction over their operation led in March 2001 to the operators being found in default by the court, Walnutdale Farms signed an agreement with Sierra Club to address the most immediate and egregious pollution problems at the operation. The interim agreement was put into place in February 2002, including a requirement to obtain a water pollution permit under the Clean Water Act. In August 2003 the operation became one of the first concentrated animal feeding operations in Michigan to come under the state’s newly adopted permit.
The settlement agreement, lodged in Federal District Court on December 22, 2003, requires Walnutdale to build a new storage pond for waste water and to develop and comply with a manure management plan that meets with the approval of the US EPA, Sierra Club and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Ongoing maintenance, monitoring and detailed reporting requirements spelled out in the settlement are designed to assure that the Sierra Club and US EPA are able to track Walnutdale Farm’s compliance with the provisions of this agreement. Additional incentives to comply come from stiff stipulated penalties provisions in the settlement, including escalating penalties which can rise as high as $1,500 per day for violation of the prohibitions on spreading wastes on saturated or frozen soil. The settlement agreement is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week.
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Copies of the settlement agreement is available upon request.
Anne Woiwode, Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: email@example.com