Department of Ecology News Release - April 18, 2016

Whatcom County farm fined $20,000 for polluting creek


A berry farm in Whatcom County faces a $20,000 fine for allowing water contaminated with manure to discharge into local waterways that flow to British Columbia.

Sarbanand Farms, LLC, which operates a farm at 4625 Rock Road in Sumas, applied manure solids as a mulch on fields of newly planted blueberry shrubs that were not yet producing berries. Applying manure in late fall without appropriate best management practices has a high risk of causing polluted runoff.

Last week, the Washington Department of Ecology issued a penalty notice for two separate discharges that occurred on Nov. 17 and Dec. 9, 2015. Samples taken of the runoff contained high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria, which ultimately flowed into Saar Creek, a tributary of the Sumas River. The samples showed fecal coliform amounts up to 175 times greater than the acceptable level. Water polluted with manure can contain pathogens that can make people sick. 

The company received a $4,000 penalty for a similar discharge from the same field in fall 2013. 

“Manure can be a valuable fertilizer, soil amendment or mulch when properly managed – but timing is everything,” said Doug Allen, manager of Ecology’s office in Bellingham. “Applying manure in the fall, at the start of our rainy season, is always risky.”

Cliff Woolley, representing Sarbanand Farms, commented, “Unfortunately, runoff was caused by heavy rains that flooded our fields. We are working with the Department of Ecology to develop a plan to avoid future problems.”

Ecology is part of a community-wide effort to reduce fecal coliform bacteria in Whatcom County waterways.

“Fecal coliform pollution is not just an agriculture issue, it’s a community issue,” said Allen. “Cities, pet owners, berry growers, dairies, residents in Whatcom County, and in Canada – we all need to work together to achieve clean, safe water. Everybody has a role.”

The company has 30 days to pay the penalty or may file an appeal with the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board.

Contact information

Krista Kenner
Communications manager