Operators of the two Vreba-Hoff dairies northwest of Morenci have long maintained that the liquid manure they use to irrigate fields is diluted sufficiently for safe application.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) faults the dairies for failing to meet the treatment standards established in the farms’ National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
An NPDES permit is issued to regulate the discharge of pollutants into surface waters. In Vreba-Hoff’s case, the permit requires the treatment of liquid manure to meet concentration-based limits, imposed in 2007 as part of a modification of a previous court order.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Giddings last week ordered Vreba-Hoff to cease irrigation of wastewater that fails to meet permitted standards. In addition, the dairies were ordered to maintain compliance with all storage capacity requirements of the permit.
In September 2010, Giddings found there was no factual dispute that Vreba-Hoff continued to violate the permit limits as alleged by the DNRE in its lawsuit against the dairies, and he found that Vreba-Hoff had no plan to correct the violations.
An order in favor of the DNRE was granted then, but the parties were granted additional time to negotiate a remedy. Giddings agreed last week that negotiations failed to result in a solution.
The DNRE lawsuit charged that Vreba-Hoff irrigated fields in 2008 and 2009 with wastewater that failed to reach permitted levels, and continued to “unlawfully irrigate” this year after the DNRE’s lawsuit was filed in December 2009.
Earlier this month, the Circuit Court approved a $580,000 lien against the dairies on behalf of the DNRE to cover unpaid penalties and financial assurance.
Vreba-Hoff also faces foreclosure action from a mortgage company on $55 million in loans.