Washington dairies fight back against EPA nitrate report

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A study released earlier this year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blamed dairies for the nitrate contamination of private drinking water wells across the Lower Valley near Yakima, Wash.

Now, the state’s dairies are pushing back, claiming that the study failed to build a scientific foundation and created "confusion, distrust, fragmentation, uncertainty and skepticism,” according to the Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic.

A news release from the Washington State Dairy Products Commission (WADPC) included conclusions from a consulting firm from Santa Fe, N.M., and a dairy expert with Texas A&M University, who agreed that the EPA report failed to provide the data necessary to justify its conclusions. Others, including Yakima County Commission Chairman Rand Elliott, agreed with WADPC and questioned the science behind the EPA’s blame.

“If the intent of the study is to draw a direct correlation to the dairies based upon scientific information, we believe it failed to do so simply because of the study’s stated limitations and questionable assumptions,” Elliott said in a news release.

The 307-page study was released in September and looked at the contributing factors in the area’s well contamination. It was prompted by a 2008 news series in the Yakima Herald-Republic, which claimed that 20 percent of private rural water wells were contaminated with levels of nitrates higher than federal standards.

To complete the study, researchers sampled 26 wells but did not record well depth or construction.

Researchers concluded that five local dairies in particular played a significant role in causing the pollution. However, many in the dairy industry have criticized the report from the beginning on grounds that the researchers did not take septic systems or different soil types in account. Read “Dairies blamed for water contamination” to find out more about the EPA’s report.

Read more from the Yakima Herald-Republic here.



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