Unlike agricultural water discharges which are regulated for large farms defined as CAFO by the EPA and the Clean Water Act, most agricultural air emissions are not regulated. Water discharges and air emissions that are related to industrial scale agricultural operations in rural areas are big concerns for local communities. The Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington State is one of these areas. The historical use of this irrigated valley for agriculture has left a legacy of wells and groundwater contaminated with nitrates, chemicals and biological agents. At this time there is disagreement among local stakeholders about the source of these contaminants. There are no swine or poultry operations in the valley and dairy practices in the valley have changed in the last 20 years from small pasture based operations to industrial scale operations. The EPA and Washington Department of Ecology are currently conducting a groundwater study which was developed in 2008 using a community based research plan. Many individuals in the community are certain that the extent of the groundwater contamination is due to the expansive dairy operations in the Valley. Additionally it is becoming more apparent that large scale operations can have dramatic effects on regional water and air quality.
Leah Beth Ward presented a three-part series, “Hidden Wells, Dirty Water,” in the Yakima Herald Republic which explored the dairy industry, governmental agency policy and community concerns about the adverse environmental and public health effects associated with exposures to Yakima Valley dairy operations. Another YouTube video exposé of the area, “Dairyman Blues,” explored some of the concerns of community residents and the work of local activist groups in response to the change in dairy processes. Read More >