Conservation Groups Vow to Sue Florida Dairies for Contaminating Waterways

Groups Give Four 'Factory' Farms 60 Days to Clean Up

TALLAHASSEE (September 24, 2003) -- If four factory-size dairy farms do not stop illegally dumping manure into Florida waterways in the next 60 days, a coalition of conservation groups today vowed to sue them in federal court. The coalition sent notice letters to NFC Management in DeSoto County, Peachey Dairy in Sarasota County, T.K. Dairy in Hardee County, and the Farren Dakin Dairy in Manatee County.

"The dairy industry's national slogan is 'Got Milk?,'" said Melanie Shepherdson, an attorney with NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council), one of the conservation groups threatening to sue. "In Florida its slogan should be 'Got Poop?'"

The other conservation groups preparing to sue are the Environmental Coalition of Southwest Florida, Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) and ManaSota-88.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection inspected large dairies back in 1999 and notified them that they were required to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. None of the dairies has complied, but the Florida agency has not taken enforcement action against them.

The conservation groups conducted ground and aerial inspections this summer near and over the four dairies and documented illegal manure discharges. They collected, for example, a water quality sample from a ditch entering Prairie Creek from the west side of the NFC Dairy property that had fecal coliform bacteria levels 40 times higher than the legal limit.

"Prairie Creek is contaminated with cow manure, and it flows into drinking water supplies," said Glenn Compton of ManaSota-88. "It could threaten the health of thousands of residents of Punta Gorda, and the state is sitting on its hands."

The four dairies named by the coalition today are representative of a bigger problem, said Scott Randolph, an attorney at LEAF. "The state is allowing more than 50 factory dairies around the state to illegally contaminate surface and ground water, regardless of its effect on Florida residents who want to fish, swim and drink from these waterways. If the state isn't going to meet its responsibility to protect our citizens, we're going to have to do it ourselves."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) is a membership-based, environmental organization dedicated to protecting people's health and environment from pollution. Founded in 1979,
LEAF focuses its work in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

The Environmental Coalition of Southwest Florida has 33-member organizations in seven counties working with the state and local governments to protect the environment.