Updated groundwater rules in Washington don't go far enough, group says

Recently updated groundwater rules that affect dairies and other big livestock operations in the state of Washington are being criticized by environmentalists.

The Washington state Department of Ecology recently issued an update to the groundwater plan, which opponents say doesn't do enough to protect groundwater, a Daily Sun article posted on the Washington Farm Bureau's website said.

Jean Mendoza of the Friends of Toppenish Creek said that after dairies or similar operations draw groundwater from deep aquifers, the water that they return to the groundwater system contains contaminants, the article said. The Friends of the Toppenish Creek has called for mandatory groundwater monitoring and manure application procedures based on science.

Permits in the updated rules now cover approximately 200 facilities instead of the few dairy operations previously covered, the article said. It also includes requirements about when and how to spread manure onto crops or soils and requirements for farmers to stop spreading manure if the nitrate levels reach high levels. Furthermore, manure lagoons must go through an assessment concerning size, maintenance and placement to determine if they pose pollution risks, the article said.

According to Steve George of the Yakima Dairy Federation, farmers have been working continuously to lessen the negative impacts their operations have on the ecosystem in the Yakima Valley, the article said George said that dairy farmers have invested both time and money into improvements that demonstrate to regulators and others their desire to do what is best for both their herds and the environment, the article said.

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Washington Farm Bureau

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