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Attorney General Sues Allegan County Farm for Illegal, Hazardous Wastewater Discharges to Rabbit River Tributary

LANSING – Last week, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a complaint in the 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County against Deborah Brenner, the owner and operator of an unpermitted Allegan County concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), J&D Brenner Farms. The lawsuit, filed Friday March 1st, alleges unlawful, injurious wastewater discharges in violation of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA).   

This litigation, filed on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), comes after years of enforcement efforts dating back to 2016 that have not resulted in meaningful reductions in the ongoing watershed pollution by J&D Brenner Farms. The unpermitted discharges of CAFO waste from the farm flowed into a ditch that leads to Rabbit River, which flows into the Kalamazoo River near New Richmond, which ultimately flows into Lake Michigan. 

“Protecting our state’s waterways and watersheds is a priority for my department,” said Nessel. “I am thankful for EGLE’s partnership in investigating this matter. When businesses fail to adhere to Michigan’s water quality standards, my office will hold them accountable.” 

Routine EGLE monitoring of the watershed of a tributary to Pickle Drain near J&D Brenner Farms in late 2023 confirmed E. coli at concentrations exceeding 14 times the statewide water quality standards. These high concentrations of E. coli bacteria were likely due to continued discharges from the dairy farm CAFO. The unlawful and hazardous discharges continue to this day.  

“Raising crops and livestock is a vital part of Michigan’s heritage and economy, but the significant waste produced by regulated farms must adhere to rules that protect our streams and lakes,” said Phil Roos, EGLE director. “Irresponsible actors must be held to account, and we appreciate the Attorney General enforcing our environmental laws when we are unable to obtain compliance through our progressive compliance and enforcement tools.” 

The lawsuit alleges:  

  • unlawful discharges of wastewater to surface waters;  
  • unlawful injurious discharges of wastewater to groundwater;  
  • failure to obtain required permits to discharge; and  
  • public nuisance. 

The State seeks compliance by J&D Brenner Farms, including stopping unlawful discharges into waters of the State, obtaining and complying with required permits, and payment of civil fines and enforcement costs, as well as reasonable attorney fees. 



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