Lawsuit: Farm waste polluting White River watershed

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The state is suing a large West Michigan farm, alleging it is not properly managing animal waste and is responsible for pollution in Muskegon and Newaygo counties.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says it filed the lawsuit against Holton Township-based Slater Farms Thursday on behalf of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The state explained Slater Farms has nearly 2,000 animals that produce some 1,500 tons of solid waste and 8.9 million gallons of liquid waste annually — plus it disposes of about 10.7 million more gallons of liquid waste from another commercial farm.

Officials allege the manure is being improperly disposed of and is therefore sending nitrogen, phosphorus and E. coli into the White River watershed, which they say can damage soil quality, harm fish and contribute to toxic algal blooms in lakes.

The AG’s Office says the state found Slater was operating without the correct permit and not properly dealing with waste in 2012. The state and the farm reached an administrative settlement in 2013, but the state says Slater hasn’t fully complied with that deal and is still mismanaging waste. The state says that’s what prompted the suit.

The AG’s Office asked the court to order the farm to follow the permit requirements, reapply for a new permit, stop unlawfully discharging animal waste into the watershed, update its waste storage structure, pay about $957 overdue permit fees, pay civil fines of between $2,500 and $25,000, and pay some $355,200 in penalties for failing to follow the rules.

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