Morrow County Commission Declares State of Emergency Over Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater

 State of Emergency Over Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater

*Meanwhile, ODA considers application for new Easterday mega-dairy in Morrow County*

Mega-dairies play a major role in driving dairy farmers off the land across the country, including in Oregon. They over-produce and flood the market with cheap milk, while externalizing their environmental and social costs, making it hard for small dairy farmers to compete. Forty years ago, Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, mostly small, family-owned businesses. Now approximately 200 remain.

We know mega-dairies are harmful and contribute to significant water contamination in surrounding communities. The sheer amount of manure that mega-dairies produce often exceeds what crops can absorb, resulting in over application and run-off into local waterways. Oregon large CAFOs are a major source of dangerous nitrate contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area. 

In an unprecedented action, the Morrow County Commission declared a local state of emergency over groundwater nitrate pollution that has compromised drinking water for many in the region.


Stand Up to Factory Farms released a statement:

Boardman, OR – Morrow County, one of Oregon’s primary hubs for industrial agriculture and food processing, is under a state of emergency after numerous groundwater wells showed dangerously high nitrate pollution. A leading source of nitrates is industrial animal agriculture. Mega-dairies in particular produce massive amounts of nitrogen-laden waste that can easily seep into groundwater.

“It’s a relief to see the Morrow County Commissioners doing everything in their power to protect the drinking water of vulnerable Oregonians,” said Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition Organizer Kristina Beggen. “But the problem of nitrate pollution can only be solved by addressing its primary source: the irresponsible waste management practices of mega-dairies. Our coalition petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its own emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act over two years ago, but the EPA has so far failed to act. It is past time to take decisive action to curb this dangerous, mega-polluting industry and protect Oregonians’ drinking water.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is currently considering an additional mega-dairy for Morrow County: the 28,000 cow Easterday Dairy. According to national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch’s latest research, the proposed Easterday Dairy operation in Boardman (within Morrow County) would produce nearly 6 million cubic feet of manure and 12 million cubic feet of wastewater per year. 

Beggen added, “In light of the State of Emergency, it would be wholly unconscionable to introduce another mega-polluting industrial dairy to Morrow County’s landscape. ODA and DEQ have no choice now but to deny Easterday Dairy’s permit and focus on providing clean, accessible water to their constituents.” 


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