Adams Land and Cattle Company near Broken Bow, one of the largest cattle feeding operations in the world, has agreed to pay $145,000 to the United States Environmental Protection Agency for discharging pollutants into a creek.
The EPA announced Tuesday that Adams Land and Cattle violated the Clean Water Act and the company's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
Adams Land and Cattle is one of the largest feedlots in the world and the largest cattle research and development facility in the world, according to the company's website.
The illegal discharge occurred in December 2010, the announcement said.
Officials from EPA's Region 7 office in Kansas City inspected Adams’ facility.
EPA Region 7 was recently criticized by Nebraska's entire Congressional delegation for conducting flyovers of feedlots during the last three years or longer. The representatives questioned EPA's authority to conduct the surveillance.
Adams Land and Cattle is located just south of Broken Bow, and had a capacity in 2010 of approximately 83,000 cattle, the EPA said.
Inspectors said they reviewed operations, looked at required records and waste management practices, and visually inspected the facility.
Inspectors documented that Adams had allowed its waste storage basins to overfill with manure solids and sediment to the point they could no longer store runoff from large rain events.
A followup inspection was performed a year later, in December 2011.
Through inspections and a review of records provided by the Adams company, EPA concluded that the feed yard discharged process waste water to an unnamed tributary of Mud Creek, which it defines as a water of the United States, on 13 occasions between April 2007 and October 2010.
The discharges were a result of inadequate storage capacity in holding basins, lack of controls necessary to prevent the Mud Creek tributary from flooding the holding ponds, and/or failure of piping associated with land application of the waste water.
The EPA estimated nearly 140 million gallons of process wastewater were released during the discharges, impacting Mud Creek and its tributary, the EPA said.
“The Clean Water Act requires feedlots to properly maintain adequate storage capacity in their storage basins to prevent unauthorized wastewater discharges,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said.
On Aug. 10, 2011, Nebraska's version of the EPA, the Department of Environmental Quality, filed a penalty against Adams that addressed one of the discharges and required Adams to pay a $5,800 penalty plus a $5,800 payment to the Broken Bow Chapter of Pheasants Forever.
The latest EPA penalty announced Tuesday penalizes Adams for the other 12 discharges and related permit violations.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it becomes final.
EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality share legal authority and responsibility for protecting water quality in Nebraska, the EPA annoucement said. Given the recurrent nature of the violations, EPA made the decision to exercise the enforcement authority that it shares with the state of Nebraska to resolve the issue.
The EPA said by agreeing to the settlement, Adams Land & Cattle Company, has certified that it is in compliance with the Clean Water Act.