The Lost Valley Farm near Boardman has again landed in trouble with Oregon’s water regulators, who have sought a temporary restraining order against the facility for continued wastewater violations.
In January, the Oregon Department of Agriculture levied a civil penalty of more than $10,000 against the year-old dairy for unauthorized wastewater discharges and failing to maintain adequate manure lagoon capacity.
Subsequent inspections in February found that the dairy continued to violate the terms of its “confined animal feeding operation” permit by allowing lagoons to overflow, according to ODA.
The agency has filed a lawsuit against Greg te Velde, the facility’s owner, seeking to stop the dairy from generating wastewater until it complies with permit conditions and proves its wastewater systems are fully functional.
Due to the risks posed by pathogens and nitrate pollution, ODA claims that a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against wastewater production are necessary to protect the environment and human health.
Lost Valley Farm opposed the agency’s request, arguing that such a temporary restraining order would effectively “shut down its dairy operation” since it’s not possible to sanitize equipment, clean barns and maintain cows without generating wastewater.
“As a result of the above consequences, Lost Valley Farm will suffer enormous damages, which it estimates to be $30 million,” according to a court document. “And it will be required to lay off virtually all of its 70 employees, which will have a significant impact on the small agricultural community of Boardman.”
In a written declaration, Travis Love, the dairy’s manager, said he disagreed with ODA that the facility has violated its CAFO permit.
The dairy has reduced wastewater production “significantly” since late 2017, has installed an effluent pump and pipeline to move wastewater directly to farm fields and is maintaining proper lagoon capacity, among other measures, Love said.
Love alleged that ODA’s approach to inspections and penalties for Lost Valley Farm “is much more stringent than at other dairies in Oregon.”
Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bushong partially granted the ODA’s motion for a temporary restraining order on Feb. 23.
The judge has ordered the facility to comply with all the requirements of its CAFO permit but did not prohibit the dairy from generating wastewater.
However, Te Velde must appear in court on March 16 to “show cause” why further wastewater production should not be shut down.
Elizabeth Howard, an attorney for the defendant, said the dairy is working with ODA to resolve the agency’s outstanding concerns.
Wym Matthews, manager of ODA’s CAFO program, said the agency will be monitoring Lost Valley Farm to ensure the dairy is complying with the judge’s order.
It’s not common for the agency to seek injunctive relief against a dairy, he said.
The litigation was initiated after ODA notified the dairy of non-compliance problems and took administrative action over violations, said Bruce Pokarney, the agency’s communication director.
“This is our next step in our progressive compliance approach,” he said.