The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a legal order directing the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm to stop wastewater from flowing from a manure storage lagoon on the farm into a nearby creek that is a tributary of the Río Culebrinas. A recent investigation by the EPA revealed that the company had violated the Clean Water Act, when it discharged wastewater from its facilities. The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority operates two drinking water intakes downstream from the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm.
"When the owners of farms do not comply with the law, they put people's health at risk," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "All farm owners in Puerto Rico must comply with environmental laws that protect rivers, drinking water, oceans, wetlands, lagoons, and other water bodies from contamination.”
On July 7, 2016 the EPA inspected the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm to evaluate the company’s compliance with the Clean Water Act. During the inspection, an EPA representative found evidence of pollution from the farm into a creek that serves as a tributary to the Río Culebrinas. At the time of the inspection, the company’s manure storage lagoon was full to its capacity. There was an erosion channel leading from the lagoon into the creek, indicating that a discharge of the manure had occurred. Manure and wastewater from farms have the potential to carry pollutants, such as organic matter, sediment, pathogens, hormones, antibiotics, as well as nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Nutrients can cause poor water quality and dangerous algae blooms, which can severely reduce or eliminate oxygen in the water. Low levels of oxygen in the water can harm fish and other marine life.
EPA’s investigation also revealed that the company had not implemented best management practices required at large farms, such as preventing animals from coming into direct contact with waters protected by the Clean Water Act. The company also failed to apply for a pollutant discharge permit for its discharges of pollutants from its facility. The Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm has approximately 180 mature dairy cows.
As a result of the inspection, the Vaquería La Josefina Dairy Farm has been ordered to immediately stop all discharges of pollutants from its facilities, remove its cattle from areas at the facility where wastewater runoff is not controlled, or reduce the number of cattle to a level that will prevent discharges from the facility.
For more information on Clean Water Act requirements of agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised, visit:https://www.epa.gov/npdes/animal-feeding-operations-afos