Jan 09, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
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.
Twin Birch was named the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation Farm of the Year in 2002.
DEC spokeswoman Carlton said Young agreed to incorporate more farming best practices into his land management to prevent further runoff problems, such as building a dirt wall, replanting grass, re-grading deep tire ruts in the field and incorporating manure into the soil rather than putting it on top of the soil.
McGlynn said the dairy is working with the DEC on this issue and will “do what we can to prevent future problems,” including looking at changing its nutrient planning program, which specifies usage of manure as field fertilizer.
Since Twin Birch did not violate its farm management plan, however, owner Young disagrees with the violation and will appear in court to “meet with the judge and explain our side of the story,” McGlynn said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.