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Community Members Sue to Protect St. Lawrence River from Mega-Dairy Pollution

Center for Food Safety Members Demand Clean Water Protections

March 30, 2023
Center for Food Safety

CLAYTON, NY – Center for Food Safety and community members today sued Wood Dairy Farms in the Northern District of New York federal court to end the operation's pollution of the St. Lawrence River and the greater Lake Ontario watershed.

According to the lawsuit, Wood Farms, which confines over 2,200 cows, repeatedly discharged pollutants from its operations into the nearby St. Lawrence River and tributaries. Wood Farms continues to violate its clean water permit through manure mismanagement, including over-application of liquid waste to crop fields after holding it in open, unlined cesspools, the lawsuit alleges. 

"Industrial dairies have been polluting the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario watershed for decades," said Charlie Tebbutt, an attorney and local resident who is representing the plaintiffs. "It's time for them all to synthetically line lagoons and stop improper manure applications. The nitrogen and phosphorus from improper manure management have caused excessive algal growth that also leads to toxic blue-green algae slime in our rivers and lakes. Wood Farms is just one of many polluting mega-dairies."

The lawsuit alleges that Wood Dairy is violating its permit by discharging pollutants and failing to comply with crucial reporting requirements. It seeks to enjoin the dairy from further discharges, including full compliance with its permit and upgrading manure lagoons that are designed to leak.

Industrial dairies like Wood Farms produce extensive pollutants, including solid and liquid manure, which contains numerous pathogens, fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended solids. This factory farm waste harms water quality for wildlife and people who frequent these waters, and threatens public health. Industrial confined livestock farms like Wood Dairy also risk forming and spreading new, deadly pathogens (zoonotic diseases) and drug-resistant bacteria. The phosphorus contamination of our waterways is causing a crisis for freshwater through the formation of harmful algal blooms which can cause massive fish kills and harm people.

"As someone born and raised in upstate New York, I love the bucolic farmland and rural communities of our state, but industrial-style dairy is dangerous for our lakes and rivers," said Amy van Saun, attorney with plaintiff Center for Food Safety. "Freshwater is already in crisis, and we must all do our part to prevent further pollution of our precious life-giving resource."

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