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Barry County

Large dairy farm with history of violations

Prairie View Dairy, a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation near Delton, is seeking to expand its herd and waste storage facilities. (Photo courtesy Google Maps) Christian Yonkers Contributing Writer

Prairie View Dairy, a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation near Delton, is seeking to expand. The 3,150-head dairy has requested the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to amend its current permit allowing an at least 10 percent increase in animals as well as additional animal housing and manure storage facilities. According to the DEQ, Prairie View Dairy has requested increased allotted manure production from 22,207,835 gallons to 27,610,432 gallons, a 24 percent increase. Furthermore, Prairie View Dairy is seeking the construction of a new waste storage structure, increasing its storage capacity from its current 14,840,147 gallons to 19,720,769 gallons.

In July, DEQ inspectors found that Prairie View Dairy had expanded its herd from a permitted 2,250 head to 3,150, according to a report filed on July 20, 2018. Partial construction of housing and waste storage facilities was also already underway, a violation of its pre-existing permit. The DEQ urged Prairie View to submit an application to allow the expansion. Otherwise, the farm would be required to reduce animal numbers and infrastructure improvements to return to compliance, said Jerrod Sanders with the DEQ Water Resource Division.

The DEQ's official decision to amend Prairie View's permit will be made after a public comment hearing comes to a close on Nov. 1.

The expansion has been a cattle call for people concerned over what an extra 5.4 million gallons of manure will mean for a region known for its pristine lakes. The Sierra Club has warned of its own concern of the perceived danger in the proposed expansion request, especially in light of a series of 2015 violations involving manure discharge from one of Prairie View Dairy's fields.

On March 9, 2015, the Prairieville Township supervisor reported to Prairie View Dairy that manure runoff was covering portions of Milo Rd. Manure was applied to a frozen, snow covered field near Milo Rd. the month before. The frozen ground and snow pack prohibited absorption of the manure into the ground, diverting the flow instead onto Milo Rd. According to a DEQ report, dairy staff constructed a sand berm between the road and field, which eroded by the following morning of March 10. Farm staff constructed a more robust berm with sand and straw bales in addition to deployment of a sump pump to contain the runoff. Despite containment efforts, the flow continued from the thawing field.

Later that morning, the DEQ Water Resources Division received complaint of significant flow of manure covering portions of Milo Rd. WRD staff arrived on scene later that afternoon.

WRD staff observed the runoff entering a storm drain to the west, where much of the runoff found its way into nearby West Gilkey Lake.

“In observing the discharge to West Gilkey Lake, WRD staff observed that the lake water was brown and contained foam, manure solids, and unnatural turbid water,” read the DEQ's official report of the incident.

Tests revealed elevated levels of phosphorus, suspended solids, turbidity, and ortho phosphates associated with agricultural waste. Prairie View Dairy was unable to estimate the amount of manure discharged into West Gilkey Lake.

“The WRD alleges that West Gilkey Lake was adversely impacted by the discharge of manure,” the 2015 report wrote. “The receiving water contained unnatural turbidity, color, foams, settleable solids, suspended solids, and excess nutrients in quantities that are or may become injurious to designated uses of the lake.”

In a follow-up interview, the DEQ reported no significant long term damage in West Gilkey Lake due to the incident.

WRD staff returned to the site the following day to find the discharge had not been stopped. The next day, March 12, the flow had ceased, and two days later, March 14, Prairie View Dairy submitted a written discharge report to the DEQ, three days after the discovery of the discharge.

Prairie View was charged with four separate violations of its granted permit:

Unauthorized discharge of agricultural waste into state waters (Rule 2196(5) of Part 31's Waste Water Discharge Rules, Michigan Administrative Code, R 323.2196(5). and Section 3109 of the NREPA, MCL 324.3109)

Violation of state Water Quality Standard Rules (Rule 1050(a), (b), (d), (f), and (g) of Part 31's Water Quality Standards Rules, Michigan Administrative Code, R 323.1050(a), (b), (d), (f), and (g)

Land application records were not available for the field in question, a violation of DEQ permit

Finally, Prairie View Dairy failed to verbally report the discharge to the DEQ as required by the permit

The DEQ-WRD issued a violation notice March 13. Prairie View Dairy responded to the notice via email nearly three months later on June 10, 2015. Prairie View Dairy was assessed a $1,500 investigation fee and $5,000 civil fine for infractions, as well as entered an agreement to prevent future contamination.

Prairie View Dairy was unable to provide immediate comment on the current request to amend its expansion permit or on past violations..

“Increasing the concentration of livestock animals in an area can increase the risk to water quality,” said Sanders. “That is why there is a permitting program for large animal agriculture farms ... Our permit includes standards that assure that manure and other potential pollutants are handled, stored, and land applied in a way that is protective of water quality.”

The WRD conducts reviews and inspections to assure that farms comply with their permit, Sanders said. When violations are uncovered, WRD staff typically work with farms to correct them, Sanders explained. When appropriate, the WRD can also take formal enforcement actions.

"[Prairie View Dairy] has had some violations since 2016," said Sanders. "The farm has been working cooperatively with us to address them."

Concerns and objections to the expansion may be submitted to the DEQ-WRD by Nov. 1. Persons desiring information regarding the proposal, procedures for commenting, or requesting a hearing should contact Megan McMahon, Permits Section, Water Resources Division, Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 30458, Lansing, Michigan 48909, telephone: 517-230-3442, e-mail:
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