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Skaneateles dairy farm cited for water pollution

— A Skaneateles dairy farm recently received a violation for polluting the Owasco and Skaneateles Lake watersheds after heavy rains caused severe manure runoff from its fields.

Twin Birch Dairy Farm on Lacy Road was cited on Dec. 21 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for “discharge into state waters in contravention of water quality standards.” The farm, owned by Dirk Young, has for years been a promoter of environmental stewardship.

The violation came after a member of the Owasco Lake Watershed Inspection Program noticed brown foamy liquid that smelled like manure being discharged into both Dutch Hollow Brook and Austin Brook and called the DEC. A DEC officer tracked the runoff to the Twin Birch field, which had been fertilized with manure ten times that month, said DEC spokeswoman Diane Carlton.

The violation comes with a court appearance and a fine that will be determined “at a later date,” Carlton said.

Twin Birch Business Manager Steve McGlynn, who spoke with the DEC officer that day and physically received the citation, said Twin Birch has a certified farm and land management plan that regulates fertilizer and manure application schedules and rates of application, and the dairy did not violate its plan.

“When you get heavy rain events they wash out the fields,” McGlynn said. “In this case we had nearly an inch of rain in a matter of hours, we had a dry fall, the field has a swale in it, and lots of rain just takes that top layer right off the land and flushes it down.”

The DEC agreed that Twin Birch did not violate its management plan, Carlton said.

Twin Birch Dairy Farm was established in 1960 and currently has about 2,000 dairy cows. The farm works regularly with local environmental and lake watershed groups, as well as with Cornell Cooperative extension, and recently installed one of the first anaerobic digestion systems in the area to collect and recycle its manure and to generate electricity from biogas for use on the farm.

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