Department of Ecology News Release - December 6, 2011

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Whitman cattleman fined again for polluting South Fork Palouse River

SPOKANE — The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has fined Pullman cattle producer Marcus Jacobson $24,000 for continuing to discharge polluted water from his feedlot to a tributary of the South Fork Palouse River in violation of a 2010 order.

In September 2010, Jacobson received a $4,000 fine and an order requiring him to stop polluting the water and to obtain a permit as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). The CAFO permit requires documentation that actions have been taken to permanently prevent further releases of pollution.

Jacobson paid the original $4,000 fine, but made only minor corrections to his property and failed to eliminate runoff from his feedlot or comply with the 2010 order.

State and federal law requires Ecology to protect the quality of Washington’s waters and take action when livestock grazing or other land uses pollute the water.

Conditions at the Jacobson property on Kirkendahl Road have not improved and continue to threaten an already polluted South Fork Palouse River. The river doesn’t meet federal clean water standards for several criteria, including having temperatures that are too high, a pH that is too alkaline, low dissolved oxygen, and high counts of fecal coliform bacteria.

The bacteria come from the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals. The presence of bacteria in the fecal matter indicates that disease-causing organisms are likely in the water.

Because of the manure in the tributary and the South Fork Palouse River, the water also has too much nutrient pollution that causes the growth of aquatic plants such as algae. When the plants die off, they use up the oxygen that fish need to breathe.

Since 2004, Ecology has documented cattle standing in muddy, manure-filled pens on Jacobson’s property, with streams running through the pens and eventually into the South Fork Palouse River. Ecology and the Palouse Conservation District have offered Jacobson financial and technical help to implement best management practices and to develop a plan to fix the situation. Jacobson declined the help and failed to take action.

Michael Hepp, water quality specialist for Ecology’s Eastern Region, said: “We recognize that livestock production is an important industry in Washington, and we’ve invested in trying to make these changes to protect water quality and comply with state law. We have provided more than $1 million in grants to livestock operators in Whitman County alone.”

Jim Bellatty, who manages Ecology’s Water Quality Program in Eastern Washington, said: “Ecology would rather not penalize Mr. Jacobson, but we have to ensure that he makes changes at his operation where the river is being polluted significantly. We hope we can turn this around. Many other farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington have made positive changes to protect water.”

Penalties and orders issued by Ecology may be appealed within 30 days of receipt to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board.

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Media Contact: Jani Gilbert, Communications, 509-329-3495; jagi461@ecy.wa.gov