A U.S. federal judge has ruled for the first time that factory farming animal manure can be regulated like other solid waste in Washington state.
Cow Palace Dairy, a Washington-based dairy farm, reportedly polluted regional ground water by using excessive amounts of manure on soil.
"The practices of this mega-dairy are no different than thousands of others across the country," Jessica Culpepper, an attorney at Public Justice, one of the firms that represented the plaintiffs, told Reuters.
The Judge, Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, made history as the first U.S. judge to reach such a decision about animal waste coming out of factory farming conditions. The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act oversees the disposal of solid and hazardous waste, but until now it has never included livestock animal waste despite the alarming volume of waste produced by factory farm operations.
While the act does not consider animal fertilizer as waste, Cow Palace was still found to be applying more manure to crops than needed. “In one instance, the plaintiffs in the case said Cow Palace applied more than 7 million gallons (26 million liters) of manure to an already ‘sufficiently fertilized field,’” Reuters noted.
If the ruling is upheld, the decision could impact many of the nation’s major livestock operations with excessive amounts of manure—and there are lots of these facilities in the U.S. Hundreds of millions of tons of manure are produced annually, according to Reuters.
“Not surprisingly, factory farming practices are also to blame for widespread contamination of our drinking water,” the animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals wrote on its website. “In fact, animal excrement and other agricultural runoff from large-scale farms have polluted nearly one-third of rivers in the U.S.”
Cow Palace says it has been in discussion already with the EPA about its water contamination and plans to appeal the court’s decision.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
Related on Organic Authority