Department of Ecology News Release - March 6, 2013

13-065

Director Bellon statement on EPA settlements with Lower Yakima Valley dairies

OLYMPIA- Ecology Director Maia Bellon offered the following statement today in response to an announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached legal agreements with four Yakima Valley dairies that will help reduce nitrate in area groundwater and nearby drinking water wells:

"The Department of Ecology applauds the Agreed order/Consent decree between the EPA and the dairies in the Lower Yakima Valley to implement practices to prevent groundwater contamination from their operations, and to ensure that citizens aren't drinking contaminated water.

Elevated nitrate levels are a well-documented problem found in many drinking-water wells in the Lower Valley.

We're encouraged that these dairies have agreed to move forward with important best management practices. We hope other farm operations will examine their practices as well.

And we know there is more work to do.

We know there are other protections that can be put in place and other sources of nitrate contamination to discover and address. We need to be sure drinking water wellheads are protected, underground septic systems aren't leaking and reduce impacts from chemical fertilizer applications.

We also applaud the leadership taken by Yakima County to move forward with collaborative strategies by the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area advisory committee to reduce nitrate pollution and assure residents have access to the clean water they deserve.

Ecology has made $300,000 available to move the process forward at least through June 30, 2013. We support the county's efforts to gain additional funds to help move this initiative forward.

We also believe there are actions that citizens can take right now to protect their own drinking water - by having their wells routinely tested and by taking actions to limit runoff from their own farms, residences and workplace operations.

The Yakima Valley is an important watershed supporting nearly a half million residents, a $2 billion farming and crop processing industry as well as important fisheries. Clean water -- both in rivers and streams and in underground aquifers - is key to the health of the region's environment and economy.

It will take a concerted effort on all our parts - through voluntary programs and regulatory actions - for us to succeed."

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Media contacts:

Joye Redfield-Wilder; 509-575-2610; 509-961-6277; jred461@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

EPA News Release: EPA and four Yakima Valley dairies reach agreement to reduce nitrate in local groundwater (yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d96f984dfb3ff7718525735900400c29/02f957f11f1e9db085257b260073b46f!OpenDocument)

Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area Home (www.yakimacounty.us/gwma/)

Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Quality (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/grndwtr/LowerYak-gw.html)

Ecology's social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)