Several dairies accused of polluting the groundwater in Washington's Yakima Valley will now start handling their waste more carefully. That's because a federal judge has approved an order between environmental groups and dairies. Environmental groups had sued the dairies because they worried about pollution leaking into water supplies.
The lawsuit stemmed from an Environmental Protection Agency report. The report found manure from some large dairies likely contributed to nitrate pollution in private wells. Nitrates come from manure and fertilizers. When they contaminate drinking water, nitrates can be harmful to children and some adults.
"I think all of our hope is that it sets a new national standard for the industry, particularly when the industry is operating over groundwater," said Jessica Culpepper, an attorney for the environmental groups.
Under the order, dairies will have to deliver water or reverse osmosis filters to more people living nearby, build double liners for manure lagoons, and reduce nitrates in the soil.
The EPA will help oversee the new conditions.
Attorneys for the dairies did not return calls requesting comment.