Washington dairy farm fined for Clean Water Act violations

April 14, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently fined a Lynden, Washington-area dairy farm for violations of the Clean Water Act.

In 2013 the EPA discovered that R. Bajema Farm was discharging water polluted with animal waste into a ditch that flowed into Fishtrap Creek and the Noosack River, which empty into the North Puget Sound. That area is home to numerous shellfish beds, which need clean water to survive and were found to be struggling under the onslaught of fecal coliform. 

Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. The bacteria originates from multiple sources including wastewater treatment plants, ill-managed septic systems, manure application and livestock facilities.

The pollution of shellfish beds in North Puget Sound has impacted the Lummi Nation in particular, hitting them with millions of dollars in economic loss, since they are unable to harvest contaminated shellfish.

Ed Kowalski, Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in the EPA Seattle office said that agriculture and shellfish farms must find a way to coexist for the two industries to thrive. He added, "Many agricultural facilities in Whatcom County are already helping to protect downstream Puget Sound shellfish farms by using tools that allow them to apply manure at the right time, in the right place, in the right amount, which minimizes polluted runoff. EPA will enforce water quality laws if facilities fail to comply with basic, environmentally protective regulations."

R. Bajema Farm has agreed to correct the issues causing discharges from livestock confinement areas, and will also apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, required by any facility that conducts concentrated animal feeding operations.

Environmental consultants can work with farms and businesses to conduct soil and groundwater assessment and remediation to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.