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Our view: 'Oops' is no excuse for pollution from farm

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Dairy cow

Cayuga County dairy cows.

A major manure spill at a Cayuga County farm should serve as a reminder that everything must be done to protect the quality of the Finger Lakes and that there must be consequences for anyone who carelessly endangers them.

There has been intense study in recent years concerning the degradation of the lakes in our region, and as we continue to learn more about the many variables affecting water quality, state and local authorities continue to try to keep pace with remediation efforts. 

Farmers have also done their part. Agricultural is just one of many things being monitored and researched, and farming practices within Finger Lakes watersheds have greatly improved in recent decades with investments being made in environmentally-friendly practices.

So it was alarming to hear that an estimated 100,000 gallons of liquid manure had overflowed from a storage pit at a Fleming dairy in March and that investigators from the state Department of Environmental Conservation found that numerous violations of state environmental law had been made there.

Worse yet is that the spill appears to have been preventable but that the operator had reportedly failed to monitor and follow emergency plans and had modified or put into use three waste storage structures without proper compliance certification.

Cayuga County Board of Health President Dr. John Cosachov said that the circumstances leading up to the spill "sounds like mismanagement" and that keeping a manure lagoon to "where it's at the point of brimming ... sort of suggests to me that there's a level of 'I don't care' here."

We believe that most farmers are good stewards of the land and water. And we all know that accidents happen. But failing to exercise proper care can no longer be tolerated, and in cases where it can be shown that negligence — or willful disregard — become the cause of dangerous pollution, then those responsible must be held accountable. 

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.


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