DEC cites farm for manure runoff

2011-12-29T03:30:00Z 2011-12-29T08:07:02Z DEC cites farm for manure runoffNate Robson The Citizen Auburn Citizen
December 29, 2011 3:30 am  • 

A local diary farm was charged with violating state water quality standards after last week’s heavy rains allegedly washed manure off a field and into a tributary feeding the Owasco and Skaneateles lake watersheds.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program, manure runoff was reported on Dec. 21 at a field belonging to Twin Birch Dairy south of Heifer Road in Skaneateles.

Owasco Lake Watershed Inspector Katie Jakaub said farm employees spread the manure in mid-November, but never tilled it into the ground. When last week’s rains hit, the manure was washed into a downhill drainage swale, which emptied into a nearby tributary feeding Dutch Hollow Brook.

Jakaub added that foam was spotted in the tributary, and is an indication there’s excessive nutrients in the water caused by the manure runoff.

The foam was reported by former watershed Inspector Jessica Reinhart.

“Any violation like this is obviously serious,” Jakaub said. “Dutch Hollow is the second largest tributary flowing into Owasco Lake. This was a smaller source tributary farther back, so that does help. You still have to treat this seriously though, this is our drinking water.”

The farm owner, Dirk Young, has cooperated and installed berms at both ends of the swale to limit the flow of water, Jakaub said.

Charlie Greene, president of the Owasco Lake Watershed Association, said that after talking with both watershed programs and the DEC, it appears the farm was following its nutrient management plan, which dictates how it can apply manure and fertilizer to a field.

In this case, the farm was allowed to spread manure on the field anytime throughout the year, Greene said, and that employees stopped spreading days prior to the rain as required to avoid any manure being washed into the watersheds.

Given that the farm abided by its plan and nutrient-rich water still entered the watershed, Greene said the incident shows there’s room for improvement.

“My feeling is, if a farmer is following their nutrient plan, and there is still nutrient-rich water runoff, it can be changed going forward,” Greene said. “This farmer wasn’t doing anything it wasn’t supposed to, so maybe going forward the DEC should make changes to that field’s plan.”

Officials from the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program said they are also working with the farm after water runoff also entered an adjacent ditch that flows into Skaneateles Lake’s watershed.

Young said any pollution in the swale did not come from his farm and that he is fighting the water quality charge, a violation-level offense.

Young added that the foam was not caused by manure pollution, and must have come from another source. He could not say what that source was.

“There is no manure in the water. You can have foam without manure,” Young said.

“My story is this is not a story. Do you expect me to filter every drop of water that comes off my fields?”

Jakaub said that based on the geography of the land, an initial review indicates there is no other source for the pollution to cause the foam since water runoff from the field drains directly into the downhill swale.

“When we have a heavy rain, especially like last week’s, it all washes downhill into that swale,” she said.” I’m with the DEC on this one. It appears to be from manure in his field.”

Local guidelines do require farmers to till manure into the ground within 24 hours if it’s spread within 75 feet of a watershed tributary, but nutrient management plans supersede those requirements, Jakaub said.

While tilling is considered a best practice in the watershed, management plans do not always require it.

Ray Lockwood, president of Cayuga County’s Farm Bureau and chairman of the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, said manure loses its nitrogen, a key ingredient for fertilizer, if it’s not tilled shortly after it’s spread.

Manure is not always used for fertilizer, and can also be spread on a field as a means of getting rid of it.

Both Jakaub and Lockwood said that due to the mild fall and early winter many fields in Cayuga County were tillable until Wednesday’s cold weather arrived.

A DEC spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the case as officials attempt to resolve the charge, but said this is not the first water quality violation reported at the farm.

A PVC pipe used in the farm’s anaerobic digester ruptured in August 2011, spilling approximately 7,000 gallons of manure into a tributary feeding Dutch Hollow Brook. That spill resulted in a fish kill, and the farm agreed to do community service to resolve the related water quality charges.

A second manure spill involving the same pipe occurred in July 2007, and caused the DEC to contain 25,000 to 30,000 gallons of manure before it reached Dutch Hollow Brook. The 2007 manure spill also impacted a tributary near Dutch Hollow Brook.

Young was fined and had to sign a consent order to participate in compliance requirements for the 2007 spill.

Staff writer Nate Robson can be reached at 282-2248 or nathan.robson@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenRobson.

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(26) Comments

  1. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - January 02, 2012 8:56 am
    holstein said: "...what I sense is a high level of resentment and anger. You can do more good to change what bothers you by believing most people are good and do not want to pollute - try to understand what is motivating them and see if you can change their behavior in a positive and constructive way.... "

    I am hearing you, holstien, and honestly thinking about ways that might work.

    I do believe most people have more good in them than bad, but then, the majority do not own an industrial concern. Even so, I agree that people don't "want" to pollute, but rather that profit is more important to them than not polluting.

    I have met CAFO owners. They are human beings, generally polite & well-spoken, but I could name at least 3 who are totally phoney, fake-sincere and tinged with such a mercenary drive for profit that it shows through in ordinary face-to-face conversation as well as in their business practices. That goes for other industries as well.

  2. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 31, 2011 8:48 am
    Greed is also what's behind adding on more & more & more cows until you have WAY more than the land can bear, then you run around desperately trying to find other farms on whose land you can spread (or get your "custom harvesting" agent to do it for you). If you can't find enough ground, you just overspread; the DEC won't come & even if they do, your farm-kept records will match your farm-kept NMP perfectly. There's no independent/objective verification of what is spread. That's built right into the system: no one keeps the plan of what a CAFO is allowed to spread (in their Nutrient Management Plan(NMP)) except the farm itself; no one keeps a record of what is actually spread, except as it is self-reported by the farm. That way your neighbors can't prove you did anything wrong; just go ahead and do it -- & they do. Quality of water, air, soil, life in general -- too bad. Some small group is lining their pockets and that comes first for them, no matter the lip service to "stewardship."
  3. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 31, 2011 8:42 am
    holstein said: "Farmer gal you make many good points yet your thoughts seem to be extremist and influenced by what I sense is a high level of resentment and anger. You can do more good to change what bothers you by believing most people are good and do not want to pollute - try to understand what is motivating them and see if you can change their behavior in a positive and constructive way - that is the only change which lasts. "

    True -- frustration can breed resentment and corruption can breed anger. I know what motivates those who overspread, who spread too close to waterways, who spread and don't till it in, etc -- greed. Plain and simple, it's all about the bottom line being bigger. If you can cut corners by not bothering with the regulations because you know the DEC won't come out, and it saves on your expenses thereby increasing your bottom line -- a good person would do the right thing; a greedy person would not.

  4. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 31, 2011 8:40 am
    kangaroofire said: "Farmer's Gal... I urge you to call the watershed inspector next time you have any water quality issue. The DEC came out because of your watershed protection program, not because it's the 'rich people's lake'."

    We can try her -- certainly calling the DEC does not work. I've called, my fella has called and 4 of my friends (that I know for certain) have called -- the DEC does not come out. But maybe the watershed inspector would give it a shot -- can't hurt to try! Next big rain I can almost draw a map to locations where I can see the problem....

  5. kangaroofire
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    kangaroofire - December 30, 2011 3:08 pm
    holstein said: "My 14 year old son, who's hobby is creating photos on the web, just told me this photo of the creek has been doctored with color enhancement. I ask the editor of the Citizen to look into this. Was this photo taken by your staff?"

    The article says that it was taken by the Owasco Inspector. I agree that it has been doctored; by who though?
  6. kangaroofire
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    kangaroofire - December 30, 2011 1:32 pm
    Farmer's Gal... I urge you to call the watershed inspector next time you have any water quality issue. The DEC came out because of your watershed protection program, not because it's the 'rich people's lake'.
  7. holstein
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    holstein - December 30, 2011 1:22 pm
    My 14 year old son, who's hobby is creating photos on the web, just told me this photo of the creek has been doctored with color enhancement. I ask the editor of the Citizen to look into this. Was this photo taken by your staff?
  8. holstein
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    holstein - December 30, 2011 1:15 pm
    Farmer gal you make many good points yet your thoughts seem to be extremist and influenced by what I sense is a high level of resentment and anger. You can do more good to change what bothers you by believing most people are good and do not want to pollute - try to understand what is motivating them and see if you can change their behavior in a positive and constructive way - that is the only change which lasts.
  9. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 30, 2011 11:29 am
    Dan W said: ". I see thousands of gallons of manure left ontop of the snow. Near Cayuga Lake also. It dosen{t get plowed under and the will melt. Just this past fall a huge amount of manure was spread. over the 50 acre plUs field across from my house. Then there was heavy rain and in a day. >All the manure was washed away,nice eh?"

    Keep reporting it and maybe someday someone from the DEC will come out -- and tell you they can't tell, everything seems fine. :-(

  10. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 30, 2011 11:28 am
    holstein said: "Until we are all willing to pay $5 for a gallon of milk only large industrial farms will survive. There is a cost for protecting the environment and it is in conflict with our desire for cheap food. I can provide photos like this from most streams running from land on which manure is applied."

    And that is a problem which must be fixed. Clean, healthy water has to take priority over the cost of milk.

  11. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 30, 2011 11:27 am
    liberal karl said: "We used to run an Enduro race down in the Southern Tier. The farmer there had run-off problems with simple mud and cow poop running into a small stream. The DEC came in, shut down the Enduro, and told him that he could either clean up the mess to thousands of dollars in fees, or pay a massive fine.We lost a good Enduro. That's a bummer."

    Not as big a bummer as a polluted water supply.

  12. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 30, 2011 11:27 am
    We already pay more than $5 a gallon for milk, it just comes out of our "other pocket" in the form of a non-stop stream of subsidies to industrial ag, and then you can add the cost of living in a polluted environment on top of that.

    I am all for cutting off the subsidies and seeing which farms survive. My money is on smaller farms who already have to be self-sustainable because they aren't getting all that cash from us all the time.

    If it costs $5 a gallon (or more) to produce milk, so be it. The market will adjust. At least then only those who use milk will have to pay, as opposed to the way things are now, where we all pay, whether we buy milk or not.



  13. liberal karl
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    liberal karl - December 29, 2011 8:29 pm
    We used to run an Enduro race down in the Southern Tier. The farmer there had run-off problems with simple mud and cow poop running into a small stream. The DEC came in, shut down the Enduro, and told him that he could either clean up the mess to thousands of dollars in fees, or pay a massive fine.

    We lost a good Enduro. That's a bummer.
  14. holstein
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    holstein - December 29, 2011 6:42 pm
    Until we are all willing to pay $5 for a gallon of milk only large industrial farms will survive. There is a cost for protecting the environment and it is in conflict with our desire for cheap food. I can provide photos like this from most streams running from land on which manure is applied.
  15. Dan W
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    Dan W - December 29, 2011 6:24 pm
    . I see thousands of gallons of manure left ontop of the snow. Near Cayuga Lake also. It dosen{t get plowed under and the will melt. Just this past fall a huge amount of manure was spread. over the 50 acre plUs field across from my house. Then there was heavy rain and in a day. >All the manure was washed away,nice eh?
  16. jordanppl
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    jordanppl - December 29, 2011 5:48 pm
    I tested the creek at the base of the hill at Mr. young's farm for 2 years and every test was tntc (too numerous to count) for fecal coliform. The DEC knew this and did nothing. This daily went directly into Owasco lake, Auburn's drinking water. When Mr. Young had his big spill into this creek he didn't notify anyone. His penalty was, I believe, to do work on a parking lot in Skaneatles. He appears to be only interested in his profit margin with Owasco lake be damned (he this year added onto his barns for more cows and constructed a very large manure pond adjacent to the creek) Why does the city, county, and State DEC allow this to continue???? Mr.Young Please STOP ruining OUR lake!!!
  17. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 29, 2011 5:09 pm
    I've called about foam from manure, my ex used to call when it came frothing down the creek behind our place straight into Owasco Lake, my fella has called about it, my good friend who ran for office has called about it -- but the DEC only comes when it's Skaneateles Lake which is affected. If you see frothing foam, it's from MANURE, no matter what Mr. Young says.
  18. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 29, 2011 5:07 pm
    "Manure is not always used for fertilizer, and can also be spread on a field as a means of getting rid of it."

    MORE ANIMALS THAN THE LAND CAN BEAR -- no duh! Wake up, people!!!

  19. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 29, 2011 5:03 pm
    1. I'd like to see a record of how many times THIS SAME AGRIBUSINESS has been cited.

    2. "...it appears the farm was following its nutrient management plan...." What did I say? The best they can do is "it appears" they were following their plan. Who knows?

    3. Can you say "Non-Point-Source Pollution?" That's how many of these industrial agribusinesses get out of taking responsibility for the pollution they cause -- you can't "prove" it came from their spreading....

    When are people going to wise up and do something about the destruction of our lakes?

  20. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 29, 2011 4:55 pm
    holley73 said: "The article does not say who oversees the "nutrient management plan". Is this at the farmer's discretion? Is DEC or the watershed folks involved in that?"

    NMPs are approved through Cornell, which has been in the backpocket of big ag since they invented industrial farming methods, & "enforced" by the DEC. NMPs are considered "sensitive documents" in this state, so you and I aren't allowed to know how much manure a given agricultural industrialist is allowed to spread on a given field any given year he is growing a given crop. Why, then we might be able to file a complaint about overspreading! Gods forbid! Keep it secret! Only the farm keeps a copy of its NMP, so on rare occasions when the DEC shows up to check, the farm-kept plan matches the farm-kept record of spreading, surprise, surprise! They purposely leave no way to verify it independently or objectively. If the DEC kept a copy, we could FOIL it. Not in this state -- must move to Vermont.

  21. holley73
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    holley73 - December 29, 2011 3:31 pm
    Perhaps if Mr. Young was asked to adhere to the local requirement to till the manure under within 24 hours, this problem (as well as odor issues for the neighbors) could be avoided. The article does not say who oversees the "nutrient management plan". Is this at the farmer's discretion? Is DEC or the watershed folks involved in that?
  22. Farmer's Gal
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    Farmer's Gal - December 29, 2011 12:00 pm
    FARMING isn't a problem; industrial agribusiness IS, taxpayer.

    Right on, Plasmatronix!

    Tracker: The only reason this one gets the DEC is to even pretend to do anything about it is because it goes into the rich people's lake (Skaneateles). We have the same all the time over here but I haven't ever gotten the DEC to come out, nor have at least 4 of my friends who have also made calls. In fact, a representative of the DEC told us that they did not even make a record of receiving our calls because it's at their discretion to even make a note of complaints if they don't want to. (That way they can stand up in a public meeting and say no complaints were filed in the previous year to a room containing 3 people who personally made complaints!)

  23. Auburn Oldman
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    Auburn Oldman - December 29, 2011 11:43 am
    Tried posting this earlier, but for some reason it didn't go through. This quote says it all..

    My story is this is not a story. Do you expect me to filter every drop of water that comes off my fields?”

    Read more: http://auburnpub.com/news/local/dec-cites-farm-for-manure-runoff/article_17705d64-31cf-11e1-ba4a-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=story#ixzz1hwVMICjD

    I couldn't agree more with the posts here already. This idiot needs to be hit and hit hard by the DEC. Time to get some teeth and sink them in this guy DEC officials. Make it hurt and maybe he'll take this a little more serious. How many times has he caused trouble in the last few years? He obviously doesn't care, time to do more to make him.
  24. plasmatronix
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    plasmatronix - December 29, 2011 10:24 am
    Yuck. I can't believe how people around here just allow pollution to enter the lake. My family are farmers and also "envirowackos", I guess. Real farmers would do everything they can to protect the environment.
  25. tracker1
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    tracker1 - December 29, 2011 9:50 am
    This is never going to end until the DEC fines these people an amount that makes it hurt. They slap his hand with a couple of hundred dollar fine and he learns nothing. This is our drinking water that this guy is screwing with and until the DEC does something more substantial he will continue with his polluting of Cayuga County's water supply. Oh by the way have you seen the fish kill that has resulted from his negligence?
  26. Taxpayer51
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    Taxpayer51 - December 29, 2011 9:02 am
    The DEC and the usual envirowackos have been waging a war against farming for years. They won't stop until no one can farm, no one can drill, no one can manufacture, and the whole region is a huge park with no jobs.
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