Washington State Department of Ecology - April 1, 2013

13-098

Mink farm fined $48,000 for discharging manure into creeks

BELLINGHAM – The owner of two Deming area mink farms is being fined $48,000 by the Washington Department of Ecology for discharging water contaminated with manure into nearby salmon-bearing creeks and spawning habitat in eastern Whatcom County.

The farms operate as Marr’s Black Plush Ranch, Inc. at 9471 and 9580 Mount Baker Highway.

On Dec. 10, 2012, Ecology inspectors found water contaminated with mink manure and feed draining directly into ditches that flow to Cornell and Hedrick creeks.

Both creeks are home to five species of salmon and two to three species of trout, and have prime spawning habitat. Two of the species of fish – steelhead trout and chinook salmon – are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Water samples taken from the properties show the fecal coliform bacteria count was up to 240 times greater than the state limit. State law allows 100 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. The ranch was discharging 24,000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water.

Ecology fined the owner $24,000 for similar violations and issued a compliance order in 1999. During the most recent investigation, inspectors found contamination coming from sources documented in the previous case. Also, past improvements made to the ranch had not been maintained. 

This time inspectors discovered thick layers of bacteria on the property and in the ditches – a sign of ongoing contamination.

Bacteria from manure pollution can create a human health risk, and can harm fish and other aquatic life by depleting needed oxygen from the water.

The current $48,000 fine accounts for the documented history of violations, ongoing contamination, lack of maintenance to prevent discharges, and sensitivity of the creeks.

In addition, Ecology has ordered the owner to apply for state and federal water-quality permits, and to properly contain and manage wastewater from the farms.

Penalties and orders from Ecology may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board. 

Ecology investigated Marr’s Black Plush Ranch after receiving a complaint from a citizen about water pollution.

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Media Contacts

Dustin Terpening, communications manager, 360-715-5205 or dustin.terpening@ecy.wa.gov   

For more information:

Water Quality Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/wqhome.html)

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