July 23, 2024

Noble Family Dairy Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Water Act

Noble Family Dairy in Southern Oregon has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act by negligently discharging cow manure into a nearby creek and river, according to the Justice Department. Noble Marital Trust, doing business as Noble Family Dairy, pleaded guilty to one count in violation of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. They were ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

Noble Family Dairy Pleads Guilty to Violating Clean Water Act

Nathan J. Lichvarcik, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eugene and Medford Branch Offices said in a statement, “By disregarding the maximum number of cattle allowed by its waste management permit, the Noble Family Dairy caused significant environmental harm to two waterways shared and enjoyed by countless Rogue Valley residents and visitors. Our nation’s environmental laws exist to protect human health and the environment, and we will continue working closely with our partners at EPA to hold accountable anyone who violates them.”

Noble Family Dairy is a commercial dairy that is a farm and a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that is about 13 miles southwest of Grants Pass off Oregon Route 238. According to the complaint, the dairy had 130 more head of cattle in early 2019 than was permitted under its state-issued waste management plan.

That caused its manure lagoons to fill rapidly. The operators applied manure to its fields throughout the rainy season and dug a trench to capture the runoff. In late February 2019, heavy rainfall and flooding caused that trench to fail. Manure was discharged into Caris Creek and the Applegate River.

In March 2019, an inspector from the Oregon Department of Agriculture visited the dairy and observed that the trench was repaired buy had as much of 18 inches of solid manure collecting in places. The inspector also saw what appeared to be islands of solid manure in Caris Creek, and manure visibly discharging from the creek into the Applegate River. In spite of these illegal discharges and the trench’s failure, the dairy continued to apply liquid manure to its fields.

Noble Family Dairy was charged by criminal information on April 19, 2023  with one count of discharging a pollutant in violation of a NPDES permit. That is a misdemeanor crime under the Clean Water Act.

This case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPA CID) with assistance from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and ODA. It was prosecuted by Judith R. Harper, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, and Gwendolyn Russell, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

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