State grants extension for groundwater testing of milk dumping site in Beaver County

Dec 29, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:28 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Dairy Farmers of America has asked for and received an extension from the state to complete groundwater testing of an unpermitted and unlined milk dumping site in Beaver County.

In a KSL investigation in August, residents of Greenville expressed concern that the milk may be contaminating groundwater.

The state initially gave DFA 90 days to test the soil to see if its contaminants had reached groundwater. With the extension, they now have until next spring to complete the testing.

In the meantime, DFA has stopped using the site to dispose of dairy products.

“Since July, we have ceased utilizing the field for milk application and have identified alternative options, including sending milk to an anaerobic digester that utilizes food waste in Salt Lake City to generate renewable energy,” Matt Willden, production manager of DFA Beaver, told KSL in a statement.

DFA Statement on milk application in Beaver County by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

For months, Greenville residents documented milk being dumped onto what’s known as Whey Hill, a 40-acre parcel located approximately five miles west of Beaver, concerned about nitrogen leeching into the groundwater and putting their health at risk.

“My concern is that if they don’t do something to remediate this, how long before it gets into the water aquifer and how long will it travel before it gets to us?” resident Russell Meadows asked in an interview with KSL last July.

A view from KSL’s drone shows a pond of rotting milk and algal blooms on property in Greenville, Utah in July 2022. (Josh Szymanik/KSL TV) A view from KSL’s drone shows a pond of rotting milk and algal blooms on property in Greenville, Utah in July 2022. (Josh Szymanik/KSL TV) A view from KSL’s drone shows a pond of rotting milk and algal blooms on property in Greenville, Utah in July 2022. (Josh Szymanik/KSL TV)

When the Utah Division of Water Quality investigated those concerns, the agency discovered a history of organic waste disposal on the land dating back to the 1970’s. They also found Dairy Farmers of America did not have a groundwater discharge permit for the land, which would have required a liner for the milk pond and a groundwater monitoring system.

On Aug. 15, 2022, the Utah Division of Environmental Quality and Division of Water Quality issued a 90-day warning letter to Dairy Farmers of America requiring them to apply for a groundwater discharge permit if they continued to dispose of milk on the land. It also required testing to find out if groundwater had been contaminated.

DFA began testing in November, however, they were unable to complete the investigation.

In an email, Ashley Sumner, director of communications for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, told KSL that, “Soil samples were collected from the surface application area and the pond area as part of a limited geoprobe investigation conducted by DFA on Nov. 16-18, 2022. Due to drilling limitations, groundwater samples were not collected during this investigation. DFA submitted a preliminary investigation report to the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) on Dec. 2, 2022. However, because the drill rig was not able to reach groundwater during the investigation, the results were insufficient to determine if groundwater has been impacted.”

DFA submitted an extension request in November. The Division of Water Quality approved the request, giving the company until March 2023 to complete groundwater testing.

In a provisional approval letter granting the request on Dec. 13, the division added new conditions to ensure DFA is being responsive to residents’ groundwater concerns.

“Because the contamination investigation will be significantly delayed due to the extension request, DFA must evaluate the potential risk to human health presented by any potential impacts to groundwater by collecting water samples from any private well used to supply water for domestic use within a one-mile radius of the property,” and that “sampling activities must be completed within 30 days of the date of this letter.”

DFA must also complete proposed actions to remove the contents of the pond by Dec. 31.

If any test reveals that groundwater has been impacted, the company must notify DEQ within 24 hours.

The company has until March 31 to submit the results of their final contamination investigation.

“We take this situation very seriously and are committed to being good stewards of the environment and members of the Beaver community,” Willden wrote in his statement to KSL.

KSL TV will continue to monitor the groundwater testing and March 2023 deadline.

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State grants extension for groundwater testing of milk dumping site in Beaver County