Environmental groups decry bid to reopen troubled mega-dairy

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The new owner of a troubled mega-dairy operation that violated hundreds of environmental rules wants to reopen the facility, drawing fresh opposition from environmental groups.

Washington-state based Easterday Farms requested permission from the Oregon Department of Agriculture earlier this month to house over 28,000 animals on the site of the now-shuttered Lost Valley Farm, according to the Statesman Journal . Lost Valley opened in April 2017 to supply milk to the nearby Tillamook Cheese factory. State officials allowed the facility to bypass regulatory requirements, citing potential economic benefits it would bring to the area. The dairy was allowed to operate before construction was complete and before submitting an official plan on how to handle millions of gallons of animal waste.

Over the next year and a half, the facility racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for breaking environmental regulations. Over 30 million gallons of manure awaited cleanup when the farm finally closed in February.

Easterday Farms purchased the operation last spring, and agreed to a cleanup plan with state regulators. Owner Cody Easterday did not respond to the Stateman's Journal request for comment. It's unclear how the farm would handle the estimated 173.3 million gallons of solid and liquid manure produced by the cows each year.

Environmental and animal welfare groups decried the prospect of a new mega-dairy, calling on the state's Department of Agriculture to reject Easterday's bid to reopen the site.

"The Lost Valley site is still polluted with millions of gallons of waste and has cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars to bring into compliance with the law," read a joint statement from groups including the Humane Society and Food & Water Watch. "Allowing a new mega-dairy in an area with existing groundwater pollution, water scarcity, and air quality issues will only exacerbate these public health, economic, and environmental harms."

If reopened, the facility would become Oregon's second largest dairy operation. The proposed permit to reopen the site will be open to public comment and a hearing.