Flint Riverkeeper resolves water quality concerns from large dairy operation
AMERICUS, Ga.—The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia has entered a Consent Decree resolving issues and claims concerning the operations of a large dairy near Americus Georgia brought by several surrounding row crop and orchard farmers and the Flint Riverkeeper.
The Flint Riverkeeper, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Stack & Associates—which also represented nearly two dozen other plaintiffs—alleged that discharges from the dairy violated the Clean Water Act. Specifically, Flint Riverkeeper and the other plaintiffs alleged that the dairy CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) discharged “manure, process wastewater, silage waste/exudate, and/or other [substances] from the CAFO to the waters at issue without and/or in violation of the terms of a valid [Clean Water Act] permit.”
The Complaint further alleged that substances from the CAFO were entering waters in the Flint River basin from different categories of sources including center pivots spraying partially-treated wastewater onto crop fields, leachate from silage-storage bunkers, and erosion from lots holding thousands of cattle. In the Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged harm to surrounding state and federal waters and to owners of private property near the operation. The private farms are primarily traditional row-crop, orchard, and cattle operations, but also include timber-growing and recreational hunting areas. Local families swim in the creeks, hunt, and fish in the area.
As a result, the Flint Riverkeeper and other plaintiffs brought several claims including alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. After several years of litigation, the parties jointly submitted to the Court a proposed Consent Decree to resolve the litigation, and the Court entered the order yesterday.
The Consent Decree requires the dairy to undertake a number of activities, including, among other measures, removing thousands of heifers from certain fields and taking steps such as fencing off and grassing gullies to protect the fields; installing clay-lined catch basins to collect stormwater and all silage leachate up to the 25-year, 24-hour storm event; and installing groundwater monitor wells on certain fields for sampling and conducting remedial activities if the wells exceed specified levels of nitrate concentration.
“Flint Riverkeeper applauds the owners and operators of Leatherbrook for agreeing to some truly meaningful means of monitoring the cleanup, including transformative changes to their operations and other creative actions that will achieve both,” said Gordon Rogers, Executive Director of Flint Riverkeeper. “We look forward to a productive relationship as the quality of the water in Bear Branch, Muckaloochee Creek, and Muckalee Creek is improved over the next several years and are then maintained at a higher level of cleanliness.”
“The folks in this area have a tradition of caring for the land that has provided their livelihood for generations,” said Don Stack of Stack & Associates, P.C. “The steps that will now be taken demonstrate the power of an environmentally conscious community to address longstanding environmental threats. They are optimistic that the modifications and improvements in operations will allow for a collaborative effort to safeguard the natural and human environment of the area moving forward.”
“This Consent Decree is the result of years of hard work by Flint Riverkeeper to improve the water quality in its basin,” said Hutton Brown, Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We appreciate the collaborative effort to achieve this outcome, and we hope that this will be an example for other efforts to improve water quality throughout Georgia.”
Flint Riverkeeper is dedicated solely to the restoration and protection of the Flint River, Georgia. Headquartered in Albany, Flint Riverkeeper works diligently to make certain that Georgians and all others have access to enough clean water and the many benefits provided by that water in the Flint, its tributaries, and its sustaining aquifers for present and future generations. Powered by a strong donor base, eighteen Board members, and a staff of four the organization maintains a field, policy, and advocacy presence throughout the basin and at the state capitol. www.flintriverkeeper.org
Stack & Associates, P.C., is a unique law firm that was founded in 1993 through the vision of Donald D.J. Stack. Started as a small environmental law firm, Stack & Associates, P.C., has grown into a premier environmental law office serving citizens, municipalities, and corporations throughout the entire Southeast region seeking to hold polluters accountable to protect human health and the environment. Stack & Associates, P.C. specializes in leveraging the legal system through the prosecution of citizen suits to obtain redress for communities that have been unsuccessful in getting meaningful assistance from local, state, and federal regulatory agencies.
Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.