The state of Ohio acted quickly last week to seek a court order to correct what officials said could be a “catastrophic” outcome at a Claridon Township dairy farm where manure storage pits are threatening to overflow, contaminating nearby waterways.

“A levee failure would be catastrophic, as an estimated 1.5 million gallons of manure could possibly discharge into neighboring properties and waters of the state,” stated a memorandum of support by state officials in seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the possible pollution.

The request stems from a Jan. 8 filing in Geauga County Common Pleas Court by the David Yost, Ohio Attorney General, to halt suspected improper storage of manure and animal carcasses on the approximately 104-acre Hastings Dairy at 13181 Claridon Troy Road.

Representatives of Hastings Dairy and the state agreed to a consent order on Jan. 29 that establishes timelines for taking corrective actions on the farm.

The action by the state stems from complaints by property owners just to the south of the farm, including Camp Burton.

In the memorandum of support, officials noted that problems were first noted in May of 2019.

“ODA (Ohio Department of Agriculture) arrived at the neighbor’s property and observed that the neighbor’s pond appeared septic and black in color and had a strong odor of manure present,” officials wrote. “At least three dozen dead fish were floating in the pond. ODA inspected other ponds and Hopsons Creek on the neighboring property and found them to be similarly impacted.”

Two onsite chemical analysis tests showed levels were over 300 parts per million while normal readings should have been less than 1 part per million, state officials said.

“A preliminary injunction in this case is necessary because defendants continue to operate the facility’s large manure storage pit and temporary manure storage pit at a dangerous level,” the state wrote. “ODA has inspected the site over 15 times in the last seven months. At each of these inspections, ODA has stressed that the levels of manure in the storage pits are an issue that must be addressed immediately. Despite this, defendants have never lowered the level of manure below 3 feet from the top of the operator-constructed emergency levee in the large storage pit and the temporary storage pit remains near maximum capacity as well.”

State officials also warned that the winter season poses an even greater danger.

“Defendants have left themselves little to no room for additional manure, making overflow, discharge, or inappropriate application on frozen or snow-covered fields inevitable,” state officials wrote. “Added to this concern is the high probability of snowfall in Geauga County for the entire winter, which will only continue to raise the liquid level in defendant’s manure storage pits.”

Although the order creates timelines for making corrections, it does not amount to an admission of guilt.

“This order is not a final determination as to any issue or claim presented in the state’s complaint,” wrote Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge David Ondrey, who is presiding over the case. “Nothing contained here amounts to an admission on the part of the defendants with respect to any allegation set forth in the complaint and-or the motion for preliminary injunction.”

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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