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Press Release

Department of Justice and EPA File Complaint Against Lower Yakima Valley Dairies for Failing to Control Nitrate Contamination in Drinking Water

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Yakima, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice filed a Complaint in federal district court alleging three large dairies located north of Granger in the Lower Yakima Valley failed to adequately control nitrate contamination from their operations. This nitrate contamination may affect the drinking water wells of nearby community members. High levels of nitrate in drinking water can be harmful, especially for infants, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions.

Dairies generate large quantities of liquid and solid animal waste, which contains nitrogen which can turn into nitrate in the soil. Nitrate can migrate into groundwater if not managed properly.

In the complaint, EPA alleges these dairies, which collectively have over 30,000 animals, have failed to comply with a legal agreement they entered into with EPA in 2013 which aimed to reduce nitrate leaching from their facilities and protect downgradient residents with nitrate contaminated well water. This agreement included requirements that the dairies provide a drinking water alternative to residents that use private drinking water wells with high levels of nitrate, control potential sources of nitrogen at the dairies, and conduct quarterly groundwater monitoring.

“Protecting access to safe drinking water for everyone in the Yakima Valley is critical for public health and a high quality of life for our region,” stated Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Strong and fair enforcement of environmental and public health laws ensures a healthy and safe community for all families to live, learn, play, and work.”

EPA is working with state agencies to reduce high levels of nitrate found in groundwater supplies throughout the Lower Yakima Valley and has provided funding to the Department of Health to increase groundwater and air quality education and outreach in the Lower Yakima Valley, which includes free well testing and free drinking water for homes in Yakima County whose wells exceed EPA’s health-based standard for nitrate of 10 mg/L.

“I urge residents and community members who rely on wells located south and southwest of these dairies to get their wells tested for nitrate,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “When we protect our water, we protect our families and our entire community.”

More information from the EPA about high nitrate levels in residential drinking water wells in the Lower Yakima Valley can be found here.

If your home is located in Yakima County, and you are concerned about nitrate in your drinking water, contact the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area Safe Drinking Water Initiative at 1-866-886-7117. 

A copy of the complaint can be found below. 







Robert Curry 

Public Affairs Specialist

Updated June 26, 2024

Environmental Justice