Divisions among workgroup bog down efforts to address Lower Valley water contamination

Each morning, Grandview’s public water system is tested to ensure its water is safe to drink.
But one of the city’s municipal wells is contaminated with nitrates, and water from it is mixed with water from a deeper, cleaner well to dilute the nitrate concentration.
“If we didn’t have this big tank, we probably wouldn’t be using this well.” High nitrate levels in the Lower Yakima Valley’s groundwater are nothing new, especially to rural residents using private domestic wells.
But the Lower Valley isn’t alone, as rural communities within agricultural landscapes across the country battle increasing amounts of nitrates leaching into groundwater.
Nitrates naturally occur in soil, but heavy use of fertilizers, including animal manure, can drastically increase the amount of nitrates in the earth — a recipe for groundwater contamination.
As a result, the dairies entered a federal consent order requiring them to make a series of changes in the way they operate, including conducting routine soil tests, using synthetic liners in their manure storage ponds to prevent cow waste from leaking into the ground, and supplying affected residents with bottled water.
March 2013: Lower Valley conservation group CARE files a lawsuit against five diaries — Haak & Sons Dairy, Liberty-Bosma Dairy, Cow Palace, D&A Dairy and the George DeRuyter and Sons Dairy — accusing them of polluting groundwater.
May 2015: The dairies agree to final issues in a cleanup settlement and judge signs off on a consent order.
April 2017: U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse introduces a bill that seeks to remove animal and crop waste and fertilizer from federal solid waste regulations.
Read the consent order at http://bit.ly/YHR_ConsentOrder

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