Lincoln County Dairy could face $70,000 fine for byproduct dumping

Published: Apr. 7, 2017 at 11:02 PM MDT
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4 Bros Dairy faces a potential $70,000 fine from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

The ISDA was investigating the dairy in relation to contamination of wells in Lincoln and Gooding counties.

In the investigation summary KMVT obtained from the ISDA, it explains how investigators received reports on Feb. 20 about the dairy discharging waste water into the canal. The next day an ISDA investigator went to the dairy and met with the owners. They showed the investigator where water was overflowing from one lagoon and one lagoon the dairy had "opened with an excavator to allow wastewater to flow into the adjacent Milner Gooding canal."

The investigator took photos and water samples of the dairy accompanied by the dairy's owners. They sent the samples to Magic Valley Labs for analysis. Some of the water tests came back positive for E.Coli, total coliform and ammonia.

"These results indicate the primary source of the waste water in the Milner Gooding canal originated from 4 Bros. Dairy," the report said.

The investigator told them to stop the flow and returned the next three days to inspect. By Feb. 23 the ISDA said the water discharge stopped.

The ISDA said 4 Bros. violated Idaho code by committing unauthorized releases of dairy byproduct beyond land owned or operated by the dairy farm. They cited them with seven violations at $10,000 fines per violation.

From Feb. 20-22 the ISDA cited them with two violations per day for the two different lagoons and one on Feb. 23.

4 Bros. Dairy will have the chance to a formal hearing if they wish. If they don't want to they can schedule a settlement meeting with the ISDA.

KMVT reached out to 4 Bros. Dairy about the situation. They didn't want to comment and said they would release a statement at some point. KMVT has not received one yet.

The ISDA released a statement from the ISDA about the situation. It says in part:

"This is just the first step in the enforcement process. We are committed and required to follow each step under the Administrative Procedures Act that govern contested cases."

Though in the report the ISDA says the water in the Milner Canal was contaminated from the dairy, it doesn't explicitly say the dairy caused the well contamination.

4 Bros. Dairy did complain to a KMVT reporter as they declined to comment that the construction of a power plant may be partially to blame for the well contamination.

That plant is on the canal in Lincoln County. It is being built by Sorenson Engineering. It is called the Littlewood River Ranch II Hydro.

Ted Sorenson runs the company. He said they have to work on the power plant around the irrigation season. Last fall, they were working on it and winter halted the construction.

"We were doing some work in the canals and we had some leaks," Sorenson said.

They planned on finishing it in the spring before the irrigation season. They are currently working on closing any "leaks" that could go into the groundwater. But they said there shouldn't have been water flowing through the canal in the winter.

"He caught us by surprise," Sorenson said of the dairy. "We were not expecting that water coming down when it did, it was a total surprise to us."

They expect to have the plant finished soon. But they aren't sure it played a part in the well contamination. Sorenson said three wells were tested around the plant that tested clean. The closest contaminated well was about a mile away, while the three that tested clean were less than that.

While fines and reasons get sorted out, dozens of people deal with life without clean water.

The Shoshone Rural Fire District has bottled, potable and livestock water available at the station. They say every day they need to bring in more water.

"We're a fire department, that's kinda what we do," said Casey Kelley. "When people need help, we're here to help."

The fire station itself had one of the most contaminated wells. They bring in water from Shoshone. Kelley said the central location to the contamination helped people out so they didn't have to drive all the way to a town for water.

Kelley said people grab cases of water and fill tanks of potable water daily so they can shower. For the most part they're pretty appreciative.

"Anybody that I deal with here is very happy for having this out here," Kelley said. "Nobody thinks about how precious water is until you can't use it."

The fire department also has water samples bottles available for people at the station. People can take them home, fill them up and every Tuesday the fire department takes water samples to Magic Valley labs in Twin Falls.