Oregon 'Mega-Dairy' Continues to Operate After Court Case
After a lengthy court case battle between Lost Valley Farm and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), it was ruled that while the dairy’s owner, Greg te Velde, violated an agreement on wastewater management, he would not be forced to shut down his 13,000-cow operation in Boardman, according to a Capital Press article.
Despite willfully violating an agreement made with the ODA to maintain proper wastewater storage capacity, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye ruled in favor of the Lost Valley Farm owner.
“As a lifelong dairyman, te Velde should know what it takes to get his dairy into compliance with regulations,” Skye said. “I’m not inclined to order an immediate shutdown of wastewater.”
Cited with endangering nearby drinking wells and groundwater, te Velde has been facing legal issues for the past 16 months after leaving fines unpaid, not reporting waste issues and failing several inspections.
Settling a lawsuit with the ODA in March, te Velde agreed to limit the farm’s wastewater output to 65,000 gallons a day, installing water-saving nozzles and cutting down on the number of “flush times” used to clean the facility. However, te Velde broke this agreement according to ODA, who estimates that he has used an extra 19,000 to 375,000 gallons per day.
During the trials, former farm manager, Jedediah Aylett, left his position with Lost Valley farm after suspecting the facility was not complying with its confined animal feeding operation permit. According to Aylett, he quit on moral grounds after being asked to unlawfully spread wastewater on a field.
However, some stepped up to fight for te Velde, who additionally owns two large dairy operations in California.
Defending the farm owner, retired Oregon State University animal science professor, Mike Gamroth, disagreed with the ODA’s claim that the farm’s use of water was excessive. According to Gamroth, who has visited a large portion of the dairies in the state, Lost Valley Farm’s water usage does not appear to be abnormally large.
Wym Matthews, manager of ODA’s confined animal feeding operation program, does not believe this to be true.
“ODA is worried that pollutants from the dairy will eventually reach groundwater, even if they haven’t yet,” Matthews said.
As summer comes to a close and the rainy season in Oregon begins, Lisa DeFever, attorney for the state government, fears the facility’s manure storage problems may resume in the coming months.
“This will come back and bite us,” DeFever said.
While it remains unclear as to what methods Lost Valley will take to keep its waste management practices under control, the dairy will continue to operate under the ownership of te Velde.
A follow-up hearing on remedies for the wastewater storage capacity violation has been scheduled for Aug. 30.
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