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September 29, 2021
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Liesl Clark, director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), today announced the settlement of a lawsuit against a large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) for failing to comply with permitting requirements and for polluting the environment.
The lawsuit was filed last September. It alleged Slater Farms' mismanagement of animal waste is threatening the state with serious environmental and public health harms. In particular, its mismanagement of the waste is causing nitrogen, phosphorus and E. coli to pollute the White River watershed, which could potentially impact the Great Lakes.
The suit stemmed from failed adherence to a prior administrative settlement with Slater Farms, in which the entity was found in 2012 to be operating a CAFO without a permit and then, after securing one, continuously violated it by improperly managing the vast amounts of animal waste produced by its feeding operations.
Highlights of the lawsuit's settlement include Slater Farms accepting additional oversight and permit conditions related to waste storage, management, and disposal, as well as paying a $120,000 penalty. If Slater Farms does not violate the law or its newly issued permit for roughly one year after issuance, half of the penalty will be waived.
"I appreciate the coordination between my office and EGLE to reach this settlement, which includes clear accountability for actions that puts one of Michigan's most precious resources at risk," AG Nessel said. "It is long past time CAFOs like Slater Farms start adhering to additional oversight and permit measures instead of using our clean water as their own personal sewer. The future of our environment depends on it."
EGLE Director Clark said the settlement will help protect Michigan's world-class water resources, and sends a message that the state won't tolerate egregious violations of environmental laws.
"We're always willing to help Michigan residents and companies comply with laws that protect public health and natural resources," Clark said. "But neither EGLE nor our Attorney General are going to stand idly by while those laws are repeatedly ignored."
Collectively, Slater Farms owns and manages animal feeding operations of more than 1,500 mature dairy cows and 400 cattle. Every year, those operations produce about 8.9 million gallons of liquid waste and 1,500 tons of solid waste. Slater Farms disposes of all of this waste, along with roughly 10.7 million more gallons of liquid waste from an unrelated commercial farm. That includes collecting and spreading the associated waste on hundreds of acres in both Newaygo and Muskegon counties.
CAFO waste contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus and contaminants like E. coli. When the waste is improperly managed, the nitrogen and phosphorous can harm soil quality and plants on land, while the pollution can kill fish and other aquatic life in water. Humans can also become sick after recreating in water with E. coli or eating fish or shellfish from contaminated water. Pets have died after ingesting water contaminated with algae blooms caused by this contamination.