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Controversial Eastern Oregon Mega-Dairy to Be Decommissioned

USA 11.07.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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In Eastern Oregon, the contentious Lost Valley Farm site near Boardman, which faced numerous environmental violations and substantial fines, is slated for permanent decommissioning as a dairy operation. The site, which has been a focal point of regulatory and environmental scrutiny, saw over 200 violations in its operational history, leading to its closure six years ago.
Controversial Eastern Oregon Mega-Dairy to Be Decommissioned
The current owner, Canyon Farms, has initiated the decommissioning process of the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) facilities. This move follows the site’s troubled past under previous ownership, which culminated in a bankruptcy filing after accruing $187,000 in fines for manure management failures and other environmental breaches.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), alongside the Department of Environmental Quality, initially granted Lost Valley Farms a permit in 2017 to accommodate 30,000 dairy cattle. However, operational mismanagement led to severe environmental repercussions, including overflowing manure lagoons and leaky waste storage facilities.

Canyon Farms' proposal to end the site’s CAFO designation includes the removal of all related infrastructure, such as milking parlors, barns, and animal stalls, a process confirmed complete by Isaak Stapleton, director of the natural resources program area at ODA. Despite the infrastructure removal, the site still presents environmental concerns, with three monitoring wells showing elevated nitrate levels above historical background limits, posing potential risks to local groundwater quality.

The region, part of the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, has struggled with nitrate pollution for over three decades, primarily from agricultural sources. This contamination has raised significant public health concerns, with nitrate levels exceeding safe drinking water standards.

Environmental advocates, including Tarah Heinzen of Food and Water Watch, argue for more stringent cleanup measures. Heinzen stresses that the area should not host large-scale dairy operations that exacerbate nitrate pollution. She advocates for remediation efforts that aim to reduce nitrate concentrations to at least seven milligrams per liter, lower than the current "background levels" and aligned with health-based standards.

The state is currently seeking public input on a proposed remedial plan for groundwater cleanup at the former dairy site, with a comment deadline set for July 19. This process marks a critical step towards mitigating the environmental impact left by the dairy's previous operations and safeguarding the region’s water quality for future generations.
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