U.S. Water News Online
YAKIMA, Wash. -- A former Grandview hop farmer has reached
a $3.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency
over cleanup of an herbicide from his property.
Dan Alexander, owner of Yakima Chief Ranches, agreed to reimburse
the federal agency $3.05 million for the cost of soil cleanup at the
farm. He also will pay $500,000 for cleanup of 1,600 tons of
contaminated soil left on the 4-acre site.
In 1998, the banned herbicide Dinoseb was found in soil on
Alexander's property. The chemical contaminated two nearby
residential wells at a level 50 times the allowable limit, according
to the state Ecology Department.
``This settlement wraps up five years of litigation and will
ensure that the work that needs to be done will be done to restore
the soil and aquifer,'' Ecology's site manager, Tom Mackie, said.
Dinoseb, used on a variety of crops to kill downy mildew, was
banned in 1986 after high doses were found to cause fertility
problems and birth defects in lab rats.
Alexander began cleaning the site in 1998, but the state
eventually called in the EPA to continue the work. The federal agency
has already removed 12,530 tons of contaminated soil from the
Ecology spokeswoman Joye Redfield-Wilder said there is no
immediate timetable for completing the cleanup, but that groundwater
monitoring will continue in the area for several years.
The settlement ends Alexander's appeal of a 2002 ruling by Benton
County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson, who ruled the farmer was
liable for the cleanup.
Alexander and his wife, Harriet, argued that they had properly
applied the herbicide, from 1976 to 1985, in accordance with existing
law. They sought protection under the Model Toxics Control Act, which
shields farmers from liability for lawful use of farm chemicals if
it's later determined the chemicals could pose a threat.
But in 2002, Matheson ruled that their handling of Dinoseb
endangered people and the environment.
``Judge Matheson's decision is a real setback to the ag industry
in the Yakima Valley,'' said Alexander, who still owns the hop farm
but now lives on Bainbridge Island near Seattle.
``If you're a farmer and you've been using an herbicide, totally
lawfully, and ... then they pass the law that makes it unlawful and
you have to pay for that, that seems to me a little bit unreasonable
to make a farmer liable for that.''
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