The Center for Food Safety and the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment are considering federal court action against four Yakima Valley factory farms on charges they are contaminating drinking water with dairy runoff.
The advocacy groups are represented by Public Justice, an environmentally-concerned law firm, which gave the companies 90 days to comply with their demands. The period would end in mid-January.
The notice was issued to the farms following a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report noting that downstream wells from one operation and other dairies were contaminated with nitrites, a chemical than can cause "blue baby" syndrome and other maladies.
"The prospect of allowing this massive pollution to continue unchecked is completely unacceptable," says Helen Reddout of CARE. "While we are relieved EPA has finally taken notice of the problem, atheir conclusions fail to recognize the urgency of this situation.
"According to the prospective plaintiffs, the dairies create as much pollution as about 3.1 million people – more than 13 times the entire population of Yakima County."
The EPA study shows that 20% of the 331 wells tested in the Yakima Valley region had nitrite levels above the federal drinking water standards, posing what the allegations claim are a danger to residents who rely on private wells for drinking.
The environmental groups say that the manure storage systems of the targeted dairies are "deliberately designed" to leak. "If EPA can't make immediate moves to solve the imminent and substantial dangers nitrates pose to Yakima Valley residents, these lawsuits will force the necessary fix," states Charlie Tebbutt, an attorney.
The Center is a national non-profit with a mission to protect human health and the environment by curbing use of what it feels are harmful food production methods. It also promotes organic ag.
CARE is a non-profit in Outlook Wash., with a stated mission to educate about activities that endanger health and quality of life.
Public Justice is a national public interest law firm that says it fights injustice and holds corporate and government wrongdoers accountable.