BOARDMAN, Ore. – The state wants to shut down Oregon’s newest mega-dairy over allegations it has repeatedly endangered nearby drinking water.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture sued Lost Valley Farm near Boardman last week citing a history of environmental violations by the facility, the Statesman Journal reported Wednesday. The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction prohibiting the farm from producing more wastewater – a move that would effectively shut down operations.
Dairy owner Greg te Velde said in court documents that an injunction would destroy his business, force him to euthanize his cows and leave 70 workers unemployed.
“The department’s order would have significant ramifications to the local community where the dairy is located,” said te Velde, who is based in California. “Many of our employees are Latino and rely on the dairy to support their family.”
The 7,000-acre dairy’s wastewater permit allows up to 30,000 animals and 187 million gallons of manure per year.
It opened in April 2017 and provides milk to the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which makes Tillamook cheese.
The association said in a statement it is in the process of canceling its contract with Lost Valley.
Regulators approved the dairy despite objections from about 4,000 people and a dozen state and national health and environment organizations raising concerns about air and water pollution, water use and health impacts on nearby communities.
Since then, the dairy has failed numerous inspections, has been cited four times and has been fined $10,640.
Each citation included steps the dairy was required to take to remain in operation. Each time, the dairy failed to comply with most of those requirements, the Oregon Department of Agriculture said in court documents. As a result, manure and wastewater has repeatedly overflowed storage lagoons and seeped into soil.
In court papers, te Velde and dairy manager Travis Love said state inspectors were being harder on Lost Valley Farm than on other dairies and were not giving the new farm enough time to get up to speed.
On Monday, Rabobank, a multinational agricultural lender, filed a separate lawsuit in Morrow County seeking to foreclose the dairy in connection with the foreclosure of two dairies te Velde owns in California. As of Jan. 2, 2018, te Velde owed $37.4 million on those two loans.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.