GRAND VIEW, Idaho — Environmental non-profit Snake River Waterkeeper (SRW) filed a civil lawsuit against J.R. Simplot Company Tuesday for polluting the middle Snake River in violation of the Clean Water Act. SRW and their lawyers filed the lawsuit in federal court for the district of Idaho.
The lawsuit outlines the size and scope of Simplot's Grand View Feedlot holding a maximum capacity of 150,000 head of cattle. The stockyard generates 47,450 tons of manure - or more - each year, according to the lawsuit.
"Manure pollution from intensive animal feeding operations fouls the water with excessive nutrients and dangerous pathogens like E. coli, making the river unsuitable for recreational activities and inhospitable to aquatic life," the lawsuit said.
Rain and snow runoff carries manure, and its pollutants, into nearby streams and canals that eventually flow into the Snake River, SRW Executive Director Buck Ryan told KTVB. Any company allowing this to happen would have to apply for - and carry - a Clean Water Act permit, according to the lawsuit.
"If they have the permit, all of the sudden, they have to actually monitor and report exactly what they're discharging from their facility," Ryan said. "And that's critical. Right now, they can do anything they want and the public is unaware of - and unable to - find out through records request what has happened to the river."
Simplot is aware of the lawsuit, according to J.R. Simplot Company Associate Director Josh Jordan. The company cannot comment on the allegations because it is a pending legal matter.
"However, I will say that the Snake River has served as a backdrop for our operations in southern Idaho for more than 90 years," Jordan wrote KTVB in an email. "It provides important water and nutrients for not only our farms and ranches, but also for many of our farming partners and a number of the communities where we operate, and our employees call home."
The lawsuit is asking for a $64,618 fine against Simplot - per the Clean Water Act - for every day the company allegedly polluted the Snake River without the proper permit. Simplot has polluted the Snake River without a permit for more than five years, the lawsuit said.
"If we continue these kinds of practices, and we allow manure to work its way down through the bedrock - through the basalt and lava rock down into the drinking water aquifers - we're just going to be poisoning ourselves for the future because that's where our drinking water comes from," Ryan said.
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