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AG Nessel Accuses Tuscola County Dairy of Illegal Discharge of Waste into State Waters, Operating without Required Permits
June 16, 2023
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has filed a complaint against Zimba Dairy, Inc. (Zimba) of Tuscola County for violations related to unlawful discharges into state waters. The complaint, filed on behalf of the People of the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), alleges Zimba has failed to obtain a mandated wastewater permit, and has unlawfully impacted wetlands and inland streams with significant damaging effects.
Zimba is a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) with three locations and over 2,000 head of cattle, including approximately 1,600 dairy cows. Zimba confines well over 700 cows for a portion of most days, if not every day, and feeds their cows sileage in addition to a nominal allotment of grass. By law, Zimba must properly manage the waste it produces by confining so many animals in a small space; instead, it has flaunted wastewater permitting rules and continues to pollute Michigan’s water resources.
“My department is committed to protecting our lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as the animal life that depend on them,” Nessel said. “Large livestock operations need to adhere to Michigan’s water quality standards. If they place their bottom line ahead of the health and safety of Michigan’s residents, my office will hold them accountable.”
Zimba has been accused of other serious illegal discharge actions. Most significantly, the complaint alleges Zimba polluted North Branch White Creek with runoff from unlawfully stockpiled agricultural waste. The discharge killed large quantities of fish, including valuable sportfish and host fish for endangered mussel species. In addition to the North Branch White Creek discharge, EGLE has documented many other state water quality standards violations resulting from Zimba’s discharges near its production area.
Zimba has also installed culverts and placed fill material in over 1,000 linear feet of wetlands and almost 200 linear feet of an inland stream without a permit. Most of these installments are not entitled to a permit because there are alternatives to filling in and destroying these natural resources.
The State’s complaint seeks civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, the cessation of ongoing pollution, and an order that Zimba obtain the required permits.