Friends of Toppenish Creek

Our Mission



Friends of Toppenish Creek is dedicated to protecting the rights of rural communities and improving oversight of industrial agriculture. FOTC operates under the simple principle that all people deserve clean air, clean water and protection from abuse that results when profit is favored over people. FOTC works through public education, citizen investigations, research, legislation, special events, and direct action.






Friends of Toppenish Creek does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in its programs or activities.


FOTC Questions SEPA Review for an Anaerobic Manure Bio-Digester 

     On August 23, 2023 Friends of Toppenish Creek was scheduled to go before the City of Sunnyside Hearing Examiner to appeal a mitigated determination of non-significance for a proposed manure bio-digester, planned for construction at the Port of Sunnyside. That appeal was cancelled, although we did not see an official signed document from the Hearing Examiner. Stay tuned for updates.

Here are links to relevant documents:

FOTC Appeal

Application for a Conditional Use Permit sent back for more data in 2021

Construction Application sent back for more information

Port of Sunnyside Property Sale 

DNS for Property Sale

New Source Review Application for an Air Permit sent back for more data

Notice of Environmental Review

Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance

Sunnyside RNG Emails

WSDA Air Quality Report for Yakima

Sunnyside RNG Interrogatory Aug 5, 2023

FOTC Motion to Hearing Examiner Aug 5, 2023

Sunnyside RNG Interrogatory Aug 9, 2023

FOTC Appeal Brief Aug 16, 2023

Notice of Appeal Cancellation Aug 16, 2023

FOTC Response to Cancellation Aug 17, 2023

Traffic Impact Analysis July 10, 2023



Safe Drinking Water in South Yakima County

     Once again, in this summer of 2023, people in Mabton, WA draw water from their faucets that is undrinkable. The costs to families are high. But the WA State Dept. of Health (DOH) says there is no health risk. It is only hydrogen sulfide. Continue HERE


Another Win for Water

Press Release: June 9, 2023, In a court settlement filed today, DBD Washington, LLC and SMD, LLC, two factory farm dairies in Yakima Valley, WA owned by Austin Jack DeCoster, agree to clean up and limit water pollution in response to a lawsuit brought by Community Association of Restoration of the Environment (CARE), Friends of Toppenish Creek, and Center for Food Safety. Yakima residents affected by ongoing factory farm pollution brought the lawsuit in 2019 to stop contamination of local drinking water with animal waste from factory farm dairy operations.

 Under the terms of the settlement, the dairies will help restore the aquifer by remediating nitrate and ammonia contamination beneath the facilities’ lagoons and fund research to compare two remediation methods that target shallow aquifers beneath porous soils. In order to prevent future pollution, the dairies will double line or close waste lagoons, install over a dozen groundwater monitoring wells, improve land application of waste to avoid further contamination, and make other improvements to the infrastructure for waste storage and transport. In the meantime, the dairies will fund alternative sources of clean drinking water for residents near the operations.


Press Release click HERE

Consent Decree click HERE


Civil Rights in Yakima County

On February 6, 2023 FOTC asked the EPA External Civil Rights Compliance Office to re-open our complaint against the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency regarding failure of the YRCAA to engage people with Limited English Proficiency. To read that letter click HERE or go to our page on Issues and People.

On March 6, 2023 FOTC submitted a revised and expanded complaint to the EPA External Civil Rights Compliance Office. To read that letter click HERE or go to our page on Issues and People.


Ecology's Rewrite of Industrial Dairy Permits Endangers Public Health; Threatens Waterways, Aquifers, Ecosystems Across the State


Press Release:January 10, 2023

 Olympia, Wash. – Late last week, community, environmental, and food safety advocates challenged two permits that will allow industrial animal feeding operations to continue to discharge pollution into Washington's waters. A unanimous 2021 Washington Court of Appeals decision required the Department of Ecology to rewrite these permits because they violated state and federal law. Despite a court order that detailed ways to bring these permits into compliance with the law, the two permits challenged today carry forward permit provisions deemed illegal last year, and fail to control the discharge of excess nutrients, bacteria, and other pollutants from these factory farms. Ecology's failure to require these facilities to implement the available and affordable practices and technologies to control these discharges as required by law risks Washington residents' health and threatens the environment. The groups filed their appeal of the permits before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

To read the Notice of Appeal click HERE

To read comments on Ecology's 2023 NPDES permits for CAFOs click HERE


Fact Sheets regarding NPDES permits for CAFOs

1. Environmental Coalition Challenges NPDES Permits for CAFOs

 2. Reasons to Oppose CAFOs

3. Fees for Dairies are 20 Years Behind the Times

4. What are Technology Based Effluent Limits (TBELS)?

5. What is "All Known and Reasonable Technology" (AKART)?

6. What are Water Quality Based Effluent Limits (WQBELS)?

7. Citizen Lawsuits


Press Release: Large CAFOs with Manure Lagoons Pollute 

Today (October 26, 2022), a nationwide coalition of 51 citizens’ groups and community advocacy, environmental justice, and environmental advocacy organizations, together representing tens of millions of people, in partnership with Earthjustice, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its oversight of water pollution from industrial-scale concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly known as Large CAFOs.  The petitioning groups argue that improved oversight of Large CAFOs is necessary to satisfy the federal Clean Water Act and executive orders intended to advance environmental justice.


Press Release



Equal Pay For Equal Work? Not At The YRCAA

     The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) has hired a company called Compensation Connections to review compensation for staff and make recommendations. The goal, according to the YRCAA Board of Directors, was to bring pay more in line with pay for other agencies and private enterprise. 
     Compensation Connections presented their report at the YRCAA board meeting on October 10. The consultants proposed a revision of the YRCAA pay grades as shown below:

     Under the proposed grading system the women who work at YRCAA are classified at the lowest pay grade, despite the significant responsibilities associated with their jobs. 

      YRCAA's new Executive Director, Marc Thornsbury, has promised to review Compensation Connection's recommendations and report back to the board at their November meeting. 

Additional Information:

Public Testimony

YRCAA October 2022 Board Packet

YRCAA Administrative Code Part B

Letter to the YRCAA Board of Directors 



Lower Yakima Valley Dairies produce so much Methane that they can sell it as natural gas

Impact of Digesters that Produce Natural Gas from Cow Manure

Investment groups see an opportunity to capitalize on Washington’s recently adopted Climate Commitment Act (CCA) Cap and Invest Program by building Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facilities in the Lower Yakima Valley (LYV) that would refine methane from cow manure into natural gas that could be pumped into the nearby Northwest Pipeline.

Friends of Toppenish Creek (FOTC) has studied reporting protocols to learn how much methane is emitted in the LYV from concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) dairies, how much can be captured, and how much will still be emitted into the atmosphere if RNG projects are approved. According to FOTC calculations methane emissions from animal agriculture in the LYV are over 29,000 metric tons per year or about 0.737 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 equivalents per year. Manure digestion also converts nitrogen in the manure to ammonia, an additional, undesirable byproduct.

Methane is created when manure is stored under anaerobic conditions in large manure lagoons. An alternative solution to the methane problem is not to create it in the first place by moving dairies toward dry manure management systems that do not involve lagoon storage. 

Recent legislation requires WA agencies to engage overburdened communities such as the LYV when the agencies address sources of pollution. This is a challenge because people in overburdened communities such as the LYV often have limited education and limited English proficiency. The WA State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) also requires community participation in regulatory decision making. FOTC submits that early discussion of the potential impacts at the local level, along with careful implementation of the SEPA are the best ways to ensure thoughtful permitting and policy making with respect to RNG.

To learn more read this statement from Friends of Toppenish Creek.