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FISCAL YEAR: 2011
1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Criminal Case Mike Vierstra
D.  Idaho  CR 10-204-S-EJL
On March 23, 2011, a federal jury in Boise found Vierstra guilty of negligent discharge of a pollutant into waters of the United States without a permit, on or about June 1, 2009. According to testimony, Vierstra is the owner and operator of a dairy farm with approximately 1,200 animals in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). On three occasions in 2009, a Dairy Waste Inspector with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), received calls about discharges of wastewater from Vierstra’s dairy into the Low Line Canal. The inspector tracked the waste upstream to Vierstra Dairy where it was determined that the source of the animal waste was an open pipe on the Dairy's property.

According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the EPA-Idaho Operations Office, Vierstra Dairy has a history of non-compliance relating to waste discharge violations. Some of these violations at Vierstra Dairy have resulted in administrative penalties, including fines.

August 13, 2010
Vierstra was charged with three counts of violating the CWA {33 U.S.C. 1311(a)}.

CITATION: 33 U.S.C. 1311(a)(
March 23, 2011
Vierstra was found guilty by a federal jury of a negligent misdemeanor violation of the CWA and two of the three counts in the superseding information


Press Release
District of Idaho
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2011

IDAHO DAIRY FOUND GUILTY OF VIOLATING CLEAN WATER ACT

A federal jury in Boise on Wednesday found Mike Vierstra, 52, of Twin Falls, Idaho, guilty of a negligent misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Vierstra was charged on October 13, 2010, with the negligent discharge of wastewater from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) into a federally protected waterway. He did not have a permit for such discharges.

Vierstra faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and one year of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for June 6, 2011, in Boise, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush.

This case is part of EPA's National Enforcement Initiatives as it relates to “Preventing Animal Waste From contaminating Surface and Ground Waters” from CAFOs. Vierstra Dairy's operation includes about 1,200 animals.

“Large farms and dairies can cause serious damage to the environment through the illegal discharge of wastewater,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of EPA's criminal enforcement program in Idaho. “Yesterday's guilty verdict demonstrates that farm owners and supervisors will be held responsible, particularly when they have a history of breaking the law."

On May 31, 2009, Viestra received a telephone call from a neighbor complaining that waste from his dairy farm was being discharged in Low Line Canal. On the same day, Viestra received a telephone call from the Twin Falls Canal Company complaining of dairy waste being discharged from his farm. The following day, June 1, 2009, an Idaho Department of Agriculture inspector, responding to a complaint from the Twin Falls Canal Company, investigated the discharge of animal waste into the Low Line Canal. The inspector tracked the waste upstream to Vierstra Dairy where it was determined that the source of the animal waste was an open pipe on the Dairy's property.

Vierstra contended at trial that an unknown third party had taken the cap off the end of a facility pipe which resulted in the unpermitted discharge. Vierstra said he responded to the discharge on June 1 by instructing an employee to go find the pipe and put a cap on it. However, as previously noted, Vierstra had been notified twice the day before.

According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the EPA-Idaho Operations Office, Vierstra Dairy has a history of non-compliance relating to waste discharge violations. Some of these violations at Vierstra Dairy have resulted in administrative penalties, including fines.

On October 13, 2010, a superseding information was filed charging Vierstra with three negligent misdemeanor CWA violations under 33 U.S.C. § 1319 (c)(1)(A). The superseding information alleged that on or about March 25, June 1, and November 4, 2009, Vierstra negligently discharged process wastewater from a CAFO into Low Line Canal. The jury found Vierstra guilty for the June 1 discharge. He was acquitted by the jury on the two remaining counts.

“Protection of our waterways from contaminants and pollutants is an essential function of the federal government,” said Olson. “This prosecution serves to remind dairy operators that they must be vigilant in protecting these waterways as well.”

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division.

August 3, 2011
Vierstra was sentenced to 60 days incarceration, 36 months probation and ordered to pay a federal fine in the amount of $12,000.


Press Release
District of Idaho
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 3, 2011

Dairy Operator Sentenced for Violating Clean Water Act

BOISE – Mike Vierstra, 53, of Twin Falls, Idaho, was sentenced today to sixty days in jail, a $12,000 fine, and three years of probation for violating the Clean Water Act, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.

Vierstra appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush at the federal courthouse in Boise. At sentencing, Judge Bush noted that Vierstra has a “lengthy pattern of not complying with environmental regulations as they pertain to operating a dairy.”

On March 23, 2011, a federal jury in Boise found Vierstra guilty of negligent discharge of a pollutant into waters of the United States without a permit, on or about June 1, 2009. According to testimony, Vierstra is the owner and operator of a dairy farm with approximately 1,200 animals in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). On three occasions in 2009, a Dairy Waste Inspector with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), received calls about discharges of wastewater from Vierstra’s dairy into the Low Line Canal. The inspector tracked the waste upstream to Vierstra Dairy where it was determined that the source of the animal waste was an open pipe on the Dairy's property.

According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the EPA-Idaho Operations Office, Vierstra Dairy has a history of non-compliance relating to waste discharge violations. Some of these violations at Vierstra Dairy have resulted in administrative penalties, including fines.

“Defendant Vierstra failed time and time again to comply with the law,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge for EPA's Criminal Investigation Division in Seattle. “His jury conviction and today's sentence demonstrates that there are profound consequences for polluting our nation's waters.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Division as part of EPA's National Enforcement Initiatives as it relates to “Preventing Animal Waste From contaminating Surface and Ground Waters” from CAFOs.

“Today's sentence—including a period of imprisonment—serves as a strong message to dairy operators and others whose businesses adjoin waterways that they must be vigilant in their disposal methods,” said Olson. “I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for its dedication to enforcing our environmental laws.”

STATUTE:
  • Clean Water Act (CWA)

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