Dairies Held In Contempt over Manure Pollution

Federal Judge Cites Five Milk Producers for Inaction on Cow Dung

LOS ANGELES (July 30, 2004) - A federal judge held five Chino dairies in contempt of court Thursday for failing to implement a pilot project to reduce noxious air pollution from cow manure. The pilot project is designed to evaluate technology that could be deployed at dairies throughout the Chino Basin, home to the largest concentration of dairy cows in the country. The consent decrees settled charges by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and Defend the Bay that manure-laden water discharges from the dairies violate federal environmental laws.

Without admitting liability, the five dairies agreed in November 2002 to put their resources into implementation of effective waste management practices that reduce foul-smelling air pollution, such as covering a wastewater lagoon, which captures runoff from feeding lots. Dairies in Chino and across the nation commonly use open lagoons, which can emit numerous air pollutants, including carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. Strong Santa Ana winds can carry odors from Chino dairies as far away as Huntington Beach.

Federal district court Judge Virginia A. Phillips held the five dairies in contempt because they failed to implement a pilot project to cover their wastewater lagoons and to measure the effect on air quality. Under the contempt order, the dairies will be fined $500 per day, beginning August 13, for each day they fail to submit to the court detailed plans and schedules for implementing the pilot project. The fines double every two weeks. The dairies include Desperado Dairy, Ben Vander Laan Dairy, L&M Dairy, Gorzeman Family Dairy, and Gorzeman Dairy No. 2.

Studies suggest that pollutants emitted from large dairies can cause headaches, respiratory problems, and even mood alterations, and contribute to poor air quality throughout the Chino Basin. Chino is located in San Bernardino County -- a part of the South Coast Air Basin, which has the worst air quality in the nation.

"A federal court ordered these dairies to work on ways to stop stinking-up Southern California," said NRDC senior attorney David Beckman, who directs NRDC's Los Angeles-based Coastal Water Project. "Until now, the dairies have reneged on their promises to us and ignored the order of the court, but fines totaling $17,500 per week should get their attention."

"We tried everything short of court involvement to get these defendants to follow through on their own promises," said NRDC attorney Dan Gildor. "However, it seems nothing but a contempt order and the threat of monetary sanctions will motivate them," added Gildor.

Judge Phillips also found Desperado Dairy separately in contempt for failing to develop an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that would serve as the facility's operations manual detailing management practices to safely handle all the manure-laden waste water and storm water runoff generated by a dairy in an environmentally-sound manner. Judge Phillips already found Ben Vander Laan Dairy in contempt in January 2004 for failing to develop an EMP.

"With all five dairies now in contempt and two in contempt twice over, maybe dairy operators throughout the Chino Basin and California will pay more attention to their obligations under federal and state environmental laws to protect public health and our precious natural resources," said Defend the Bay founding director Robert Caustin, whose organization works to protect Newport Bay and Orange County coastal waters.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is considering new rules to reduce air pollution from Southern California dairies.

The five dairies are represented by Bakersfield attorney David Albers (661) 716-3900.