Dairy Farm To Pay State More Than $2 Million In Penalties

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced on Aug. 3 that the agency and Marks Dairy Farm in Lowville, Lewis County, have entered into a consent order that requires payment of more than $2 million as a result of environmental damages caused by a large liquid manure spill, including funding more than $1.5 million in environmental benefit projects.

"DEC is committed to holding responsible parties accountable for damages to the environment, and this spill had significant impacts to the area's fisheries, among other resources," said DEC Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan. "The consent order with Marks Dairy Farm is a necessary, positive step that will help address the violations that took place by requiring comprehensive corrective actions and increasing recreational access."

On Aug. 10, 2005, several million gallons of manure being stored at the large dairy farm operation emptied into an adjacent field and moved through a drainage ditch into the Black River. The spill led to a strong drop in dissolved oxygen levels in the water. DEC determined that more than 375,000 fish were killed in an approximately 20-mile stretch of the Black River.

DEC worked with the state Department of Health (DOH), the Lewis County Soil and Water Conservation District, local officials and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to investigate the circumstances of the spill, count the fish killed, monitor the water quality and dilute the manure plume. DEC's investigation into the remaining fish population in the areas affected by the spill showed that many young fish and macroinvertebrates survived the spill, keeping the ecological basis for that stretch of the river's food chain intact. DEC issued a notice of violation (NOV) detailing preliminary violations on August 19, 2005, including water quality violations and violations of the terms and conditions of the facility's Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Permit.

Marks Dairy Farm is one of the largest dairy operations in the Northeast with more than 5,000 cows and thousands of acres of crop fields. When operating in accordance with the facility's CAFO permit, manure is safely stored and applied to crop fields to recycle nutrients as fertilizer.

Under the terms of the consent order, Marks Dairy Farm has agreed to pay a $2.2 million settlement package. The consent order resolves the outstanding violations and requires the facility owners to bring the facility into compliance with all environmental regulations and standards.

For additional information, contact DEC at http://www.dec.state.ny.us.

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