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CAFOs - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

This page is intended to be a resource for communities fighting for justice as well as lawyers, scientists and advocates who seek to bring about environmental and social justice. Sometimes called "factory farms" or "animal factories", concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, have been known to be a potential menace to society for decades. None other than the former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said on the Senate floor in 1972 during discussion of the Clean Water Act:

[D]evelopment of intensive livestock and poultry production on feedlots and in modern buildings has created massive concentrations of manure in small areas. The recycling capacity of the soil and plant cover has been surpassed…The present situation and outlook for future developments in livestock and poultry production show that waste management systems are required to prevent waste generated in concentrated production areas from causing serious harm to surface and ground waters.

While our firm has primarily worked on industrial dairies (from 1,000 head up to 12,000 head), CAFOs of all kinds, such as poultry, beef, and hogs, continue to present an imminent threat to human health and the environment from surface and ground water contamination caused by too much manure and not enough land. CAFOs also emit huge amounts of respiratory irritants such as ammonia, are substantial contributors to greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, often exploit undocumented workers, treat animals inhumanely, and improperly use antibiotics and hormones that weaken the health of animals and humans, to name some the many major classes of problems they create. While some might say "How else do we feed the world?" the answer cannot be that CAFOs are allowed to feed with one hand while poisoning with the other. The Pew Commission report from 2008, "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America", led by a former governor from Kansas, found that CAFOs should be phased out for the good of society.

On this page you will find cases that show the extreme, yet common, pollution of communities, including rivers, oceans and drinking water. CAFOs are defined as point sources under the Clean Water Act. Early cases referenced below from Washington and more recent cases in Hawaii involve surface water discharges, while recent Washington cases involve groundwater nitrate pollution. You will find scientific reports, as well as testimony from experts in the cases discussing the mechanisms of the pollution caused by CAFOs in many states. We have implored the President and the Governor of Washington to protect the people, with no response from either. While far from complete, this page provides critical information about how CAFOs have been held accountable and how science and the law have helped protect communities. Also visit our News page, for years of press on this issue.

A Victory for Oklahoma in Poultry Pollution Case, Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, May 2, 2023.
A long-awaited court decision is the most recent example of the slow but powerful arm of litigation in addressing the public health impacts of industrial livestock production. The recent decision is paving the way for cleaner water and protection of natural resources in Oklahoma, and it came 18 years after the lawsuit was filed. The decision clearly finds fault with 11 poultry companies for polluting the Illinois River watershed. As the saying goes, sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind fine. Despite the lawsuit being filed in 2005, the case was not heard until 2009, and the bench trial consumed 52 days, spread out over a 148-day period. For reasons that are not clear to the public, the case languished for 18 years after the suit was filed. Charlie Tebbutt, an environmental lawyer who specializes in litigation against concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), feels that the win is tempered by how long it took. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” says Tebbutt. “The decision came 18 years after the start, and in those intervening years, the pollution, which was rampant, became even more significant. It’s important that these decisions come out earlier so that justice can be meted out.”  Read the full story . . .

Cases & Consent Decrees - Washington State

CARE, et al., v. Austin Jack DeCoster, et al., 1:19-CV-3010-TOR (E.D. Wa., February 7, 2022)
Austin "Jack" DeCoster and other shell LLCs owned by him, one of the nation's largest egg producers, and one of the most notorious environmental, labor, and human rights violators in the CAFO industry, have been brought in as defendants in a RCRA imminent and substantial endangerment claim. The case, concerning nitrate contamination from an industrial dairy in the Lower Yakima Valley, has been active for nearly three years and just recently DeCoster was added as a party. The Court found that it had specific personal jurisdiction over DeCoster and that "Plaintiffs here have provided more than adequate notice of their intent to sue under §6972(a)(1)(A)."    Read the Decision . . .   Read the Unsealed Brief . . .   Read the Consent Decree . . .

Dairies Causing Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Human Health and the Environment via Groundwater Contamination - The Cluster Cases - RCRA “citizen suits”

A series of lawsuits by Community Association for Restoration of the Environment ("CARE") and Center for Food Safety ("CFS") against a cluster of dairies in the Lower Yakima Valley. These cases were filed in 2013. Motions to Dismiss and a cavalcade of other filings were made in the cases. After CARE and CFS won the Motion for Summary Judgment, the cases soon settled. Oversight over the Consent Decrees continues, including 2020 decisions on Motions for Contempt for failure to follow one of the Consent Decrees.

CARE and Center for Food Safety v. George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy, et al., 1:13-CV-3017-TOR (E.D. Wa., April 14, 2020)
Federal District Judge Thomas Rice found George DeRuyter & Son and D & A Dairy in contempt of court for violating a 2015 Consent Decree designed to stop pollution from the industrial dairies. "The only issue remaining is what sanction the Court should impose for failure to timely comply and the imposition of a future date certain to comply." The dairies, along with dozens of other industrial dairies, have caused extensive groundwater contamination in the Lower Yakima Valley. Governors Inslee, Gregoire and Locke, and Ecology Directors Bellon, Sturdevant, and Manning have allowed this public health threat to continue virtually unbated, except for efforts by CARE, and more recently CFS, and Friends of Toppenish Creek, to tackle the pollution problem. Among our co-counsel was Public Justice.    Read the Order on Contempt . . .    Read the Order on Sanctions . . .   Read the Consent Decree . . .   Read recent press on the case . . .

CARE and Center for Food Safety v. Cow Palace, et al., 80 F. Supp. 3d 1180 (E.D. Wash. 2015)
This decision is the first of its kind in the country that finds that manure from industrial dairies when mishandled, as it is at Cow Palace, is a solid waste that is causing an immediate threat to human health. This facility is no different from the thousands of other animal factories across the country that are causing the same harms to the people around them. It is long past time for local, state and federal health protectors to take up the mantle and protect human health over corporate profits. Among our co-counsel was Public Justice.    Read the Decision on Summary Judgment . . .   Read the Order Unsealing Records . . .   Read recent press on the case . . .

CARE and Center for Food Safety v. Cow Palace, et al., 2015 WL 403178 (E.D. Wash. Jan. 28, 2015)
Shortly after the landmark decision (above) finding that manure from industrial dairies when mishandled is a solid waste causing an immediate threat to human health, Cow Palace filed for leave to appeal the ruling. The Court denied the motion stating "[T]his Court finds the public interest in addressing current levels of contamination and minimizing any further risk of harm immeasurably outweighs any argument in favor of staying these proceedings pending appeal. As this Court determined in its previous Order, the Dairy’s operations may currently be presenting an imminent and substantial endangerment to the nearby residents who are consuming the nitrate-contaminated groundwater. Any delay in these proceedings only increases the already-present risk to the public health."    Read the Order . . .

CARE v. George & Margaret LLC,
954 F. Supp. 2d 1151 (E.D. Wash. 2013)(RCRA anti-duplication does not apply to citizen suit for manure discharge to groundwater even where EPA took Safe Drinking Water Act action against same dairies)

On May 19, 2015, the United States District Court approved three Consent Decrees filed in CARE v. Cow Palace Dairy, et al., 13-cv-3016-TOR, CARE v. Henry Bosma Dairy, et al., 13-cv-3019-TOR, and CARE v. George & Margaret, LLC, et al., 13-cv-3017-TOR.

Cow Palace Dairy - Consent Decree with exhibits
Henry Bosma Dairy and Liberty Dairy - Consent Decree with exhibits
George DeRuyter & Son and D&A Dairy - Consent Decree with exhibits

Key Agency and Industry Deposition Transcripts as part of Cluster cases
Deposition of Thomas Tebb, Central WA Director, Department of Ecology
Deposition of Jay Gordon, then Executive Director, Washington State Dairy Federation, and Exhibits
Deposition of Virginia Prest, Former Head of the Dairy Nutrient Management Program, Washington State Dept. of Agriculture
Deposition of Dan McCarty, Dairy Inspector, Washington State Dept. of Agriculture

Defendants’ Experts were Stewart Melvin, David Trainor, James Maul, Richard Pleus, Scott Stephen and Michael Backe

The Cluster Cases Consent Decree Compliance - Investigatory Data Continues to Show Contamination

2021-2022 - Bosma Dairy Lagoon 3 shows massive nitrogen loadings leading to ground water contamination
2021 - First Quarter Report to Plaintiffs from Cluster Dairies
2019 - Annual Report to EPA from Cluster Dairies
2020 - Lagoon Abandonment Testing Data (GDS Dairy)
2018 - Lagoon Abandonment Testing Data (Bosma/Cow Palace)
Conceptual Model of Groundwater Contamination

CARE and Center for Food Safety v. Cow Palace, et al.

ECF 211 - Motion for Summary Judgment
ECF 211-1 - Statement of Material Facts
ECF 226-1 - Cow Palace Livestock Nutrient Management Plan, part 1
ECF 226-2 - Cow Palace Livestock Nutrient Management Plan, part 2
ECF 237-2 - Expert Report of Dr. Byron Shaw, Ph.D.
ECF 237-3 - Expert Report of David Erickson
ECF 238 - Expert Report of Dr. Robert Lawrence, M.D.
ECF 238-1 - Dr. Shaw Rebuttal of Scott Stephen
ECF 238-2 - Dr. Shaw Rebuttal of Dr. Stewart Melvin, Ph.D.
ECF 238-3 - Dr. Shaw Rebuttal of James Maul
ECF 239 - Dr. Shaw Rebuttal of David Trainor
ECF 239-1 - Erickson Rebuttal of Trainor
ECF 239-2 - Erickson Rebuttal of Maul
ECF 281 - Opposition to Dolsen_3D Mtn for Summary Judgment
ECF 286 - Opposition to Cow Palace Mtn for Summary Judgment
ECF 304 - Reply in Support of Mtn for Summary Judgment
ECF 320 - Order Granting in Part Mtn for Summary Judgment
ECF 321 - Order Unsealing Records
ECF 331 - Order Denying Interlocutory Appeal

The Clean Drinking Water Project

The Clean Drinking Water Project was created in 2015 as part of a legal settlement between CARE/Center for Food Safety and the Cluster Dairies in the Lower Yakima Valley. (May 19, 2015, the United States District Court approved the three Consent Decrees.) These Consent Decrees obligated the owners of five large dairies to fund a Clean Drinking Water Program designed to provide clean, safe drinking water to those members of the community who have been endangered by groundwater contamination. Additionally, the CDWP serves the dual purpose of providing outreach to at risk residents and information about the potential dangers from nitrate contamination in the area. Click here for more details and to participate in the CDWP.

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act) Cases

Community Ass'n for Restoration of Environment v. Nelson Faria Dairy, Slip Copy, 2011 WL 6934707, E.D.Wash., December 30, 2011 (Memorandum of Decision), Slip Copy, 2012 WL 272888, E.D.Wash., January 12, 2012 (Order on Relief) & Slip Copy, CV-04-3060-LRS, E.D.Wash., May 1, 2012 (Order Denying Stay on Appeal)(CAFO found to have "caused or significantly contributed to the excessive nitrate contamination of the local groundwater."  Monitoring of groundwater, soil and tile drains for manure related pollution required.)

CARE v. Henry Bosma Dairy
65 F. Supp.2d 1129 (E.D.Wa. 1999), 2001 WL 1704240 (E.D. Wa. 2001), aff’d 305 F.3d 943 (9th Cir. 2002)(large CAFO discharges to waters of US and penalties after 5 week trial)

CARE v. Sid Koopmans Dairy
54 F. Supp.2d 976 (E.D. Wa. 1999)(summary judgment on CAFO liability, four consolidated cases)

Other Settlement Agreements & Cases

2022 - View Point Dairy Consent Decree
2020 - Sunnyside Dairy Consent Decree
2000 - DeRuyter Brothers Dairy Consent Decree
2000 - Sunnyveld Dairy Consent Decree
2018 - Snipes Mountain Dairy Consent Decree


Trying to Change the Regulatory System; Washington CAFO Permit Appeal

Seven organizations, Center for Food Safety, CARE, Friends of Toppenish Creek, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance, challenged Washington Department of Ecology’s general NPDES permit for CAFOs. Ecology has failed to protect the people of Washington and the ground and surface waters of the state from manure pollution for decades. The science is clear - large dairy CAFOs have been contaminating the Lower Yakima Valley, Whatcom County, and other areas of the state without proper regulation and controls by the state and federal environmental agencies.

"Washington Court of Appeals Sends Permit Back to Ecology with Clear Message: Monitor Ground and Surface Water" - On June 29, the Court invalidated the CAFO permits with instruction to require ground and surface water monitoring and account for climate change impacts. In summary, the Court said:

We hold that (1) the permit conditions meet AKART requirements for animal pens and corrals, but not for existing manure lagoons or composting areas, (2) the permit conditions do not protect all covered activities from violating water quality standards, (3) monitoring beyond the soil sampling and visual inspections required by the permits is necessary to ensure compliance, (4) the combined permit fails to make site-specific information regarding how a CAFO will comply with permit requirements available for public comment and review as required under federal regulations, (5) Ecology had a responsibility pursuant to the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), ch. 43.21C RCW, to consider the effects of climate change before issuing the permit, and (6) the T-SUM 200 standard for field application satisfies AKART requirements as applied to Eastern Washington.

The testimony of witnesses before the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) is provided here. Scientific evidence shows leaking lagoons, discharges to surface and ground water, and overapplication of manure are all at fault. Read what the witnesses had to say, below, as well as the closing argument of Charlie Tebbutt, lead counsel for the challengers.

Day 1 - Testimony of Jonathan Jennings, 5/21/18
Day 2 - Testimony of Jonathan Jennings and Melanie Redding, 5/22/18
Day 3 - Testimony of Melanie Redding, Sue Joerger and David Erickson, 5/23/18
Day 4 - Testimony of David Erickson and Dennis Keeney, 5/24/18
Day 5 - Testimony of David Erickson, Helen Reddout and Kevin Lindsey, 5/25/18
Day 6 - Testimony of Joseph Harrison, David Haggith and Dan Wood, 6/5/18
Day 7 - Testimony of Wilmont H. Moore and Vince McGowan, 6/6/18
Day 7 - Closing Arguments, 6/7/18
PCHB Decision - It was as if the seven days of trial never happened
Opening Brief to WA Court of Appeals

Decision from WA Court of Appeals finding permits inadequate

Cases & Consent Decrees - Hawaii

Kupale O'okala and CFS v. Big Island Dairy (CWA) In March of 2019 the parties entered a Consent Decree that required the closure of the industrial dairy by the end of 2019. The complaint was filed in June of 2017. Big Island Dairy had about 3,000 dairy cows on volcanic soils with 20% slope and 170 inches of annual precipitation. This site, as operations proved, was a recipe for disaster. On numerous occasions, BID intentionally discharged millions of gallons of manure water to three ditches that ran through the community of O'okala. BID could not operate in compliance with the Clean Water Act or within basic principles of common decency, so had no choice but to cease operations.

Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
Deposition of Matthew Kurano, Clean Water Branch, Enforcement Section, Hawaii Department of Health - Volume 1 and Volume 2
Spill Reports - 12/24/18 and 2/24/19

Friends of Maha’Ulepu, Inc. v. Hawai'i Dairy Farms, LLC (CWA) 224 F. Supp. 3d 1094 (D. Haw. 2016)(Order on Summary Judgment), Consent Decree

Cases - Idaho

Idaho Rural Council v. Bosma
143 F. Supp.2d 1169 (D. Id. 2001)(summary judgment on issues of waters of United States)


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