New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan announced on Thursday that DEC and Marks Dairy Farm in Lowville, Lewis County, have entered into a consent order that requires payment of more than $2 million as a result of environmental damages caused by a large liquid manure spill, including funding over $1.5 million in environmental benefit projects.

"DEC is committed to holding responsible parties accountable for damages to the environment and this spill had significant impacts to the area's fisheries, among other resources," said Commission Sheehan. "The consent order with Marks Dairy Farm is a necessary, positive step that will help address the violations that took place by requiring comprehensive corrective actions and increasing recreational access."

On August 10, 2005 several million gallons of manure being stored at the large dairy farm operation emptied into an adjacent field and moved through a drainage ditch into the Black River. The spill led to a strong drop in dissolved oxygen levels in the water. DEC determined that over 375,000 fish were killed in an approximately 20-mile stretch of the Black River.

Marks Dairy Farm is one of the largest dairy operations in the Northeast with over 5,000 cows and thousands of acres of crop fields. When operating in accordance with the facility's CAFO permit, manure is safely stored and applied to crop fields to recycle nutrients as fertilizer.

Under the terms of the consent order, Marks Dairy Farm has agreed to pay a $2.2 million settlement package. The consent order resolves the outstanding violations and requires the facility owners to bring the facility into compliance with all environmental regulations and standards.

The package is comprised of the following terms:

  • A payable penalty to DEC of approximately $310,000 to be deposited into the Conservation Fund and a payment of approximately $390,000 for Natural Resource Damages. The combined total will be paid in installments over a six year period, with the first payment due within 60 days of the execution of the order.
  • $1.5 million in Environmental Benefit projects including: public fishing rights easements at the farm along the Black River and Whetstone Creek and development rights easements over most of the farm's land holdings.
  • Satisfactory completion of a Compliance Schedule, by December 31, 2006, to ensure proper management of the farm's waste and compliance with environmental laws and regulation.

Additionally, since the spill occurred the owners of the farm have replaced the old manure lagoon with a fully compliant manure storage facility, and have completed many of the best management practices required by the compliance schedule in the consent order.

To read the complete press release, go to: http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/press/pressrel/2006/2006120.html

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation