YAKIMA – A group of Yakima Valley residents is seeking to limit when dairy operators can spray manure onto fields, a common practice in the dairy industry.
A Kennewick attorney representing the residents wants the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency to prohibit the practice during high winds and when burn bans are in effect. The attorney, George Fearing, said the impact of manure on the lives of neighbors is most intense during those periods.
“The problem with manure is that it’s present all the time. It spreads all the time, but it spreads even more during high winds and during inversions,” Fearing said Friday in a telephone interview. “That is the reason for this petition.”
He said the agency has authority to take action under the Washington Clean Air Act, similar to the authority to impose bans on burning to reduce the impact on public health.
His six clients, supported by letters from other residents, are asking the agency to adopt rules putting the ban into effect.
Kathy Rogers, who lives south of Sunnyside, signed one of the letters seeking the rule.
She said the manure spread through the air is affecting the homes and health of residents.
“One of the main issues with the CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) is that in an inversion they are allowed to spray liquid manure from their lagoons. They also are allowed to do it on a windy day,” she said. “It seemed to us to be a simple suggestion that there be rules about them doing that.”
The petition asks the agency, which has jurisdiction on all county land with the exception of the Yakama Indian Reservation, to adopt a regulation limiting manure spraying by next month.
Agency spokesman Dave Caprile said the agency can’t act that quickly given legal requirements to notify the public about a proposed new rule.
He said the petition, submitted April 30, is under review to determine whether authority exists to regulate the practice.
Caprile said the Clean Air Agency isn’t the only layer of government that can call burn bans, pointing to state and federal agencies like the Forest Service and the Department of Natural Resources, which have authority over certain lands. He added the state Department of Agriculture regulates manure management under the Dairy Nutrient Management Program.
“It’s not quite as cut and dried. The residents view it as a solution to a problem,” he said. “We have to be careful what we write into a regulation and we have to justify it.”