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.


Scientific Truths 

This story is about how I ran afoul of a major chemical company by showing their animal models for human exposure to chemicals were inaccurate---dogs, cats, and rats pee but they don't sweat. If that intrigues you please read on. 

In 1979 I worked as a chemist with the United States Department Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Albany, CA, and I was thrilled when I was selected to manage a project to study agricultural worker exposure to a widely used herbicide called 2,4 D. The project was based at an ARS lab in Yakima, WA and during a preliminary meeting there with staff from D.C. I was told that my mission was to show that 2,4 D is safe to use. This was the first and only time I was given a mandate on the results of a research project, and I vowed to ignore it. 

While studying aerial applicator exposure to the chemical a pilot told me that after his evening shower his wife said he smelled fishy like the amine salt of 2,4 D he sprayed. His statement intrigued me. When I returned to the lab, I put a minuscule amount of that chemical on my palm and had a coworker swab the back of my neck periodically over a time course. Analysis of the swabs showed that the chemical was being excreted through my skin within minutes of the exposure. I repeated this and similar experiments over the next few months until I was convinced that the results were valid. Literature at the time, mostly from the manufacturer, claimed dermal exposure was excreted in the urine but their research was based on non-perspiring animals such as rats, dogs, and cats. The only animals that perspire to a significant extent are the higher primates. 

 This finding was newsworthy, so I decided to present the results at the 1982 American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting.   Approvals to give the presentation were quickly granted by the ARS and within days they attempted to revoke them. Apparently, the manufacturer got wind of what I was going say and brought pressure on the ARS to stop me. Their wish to suppress this information was understandable because 2,4 D is a component of Agent Orange which was heavily litigated by Vietnam Veterans at that time. Fortunately for me they were unsuccessful because a synopsis of the meeting had been published and it would have been too embarrassing to deny me the right to speak. The schedule for the ACS meeting was surreptitiously altered, however, so that I gave the last presentation on the last day of the meeting. When I returned to the laboratory my project had been canceled and I was told that I could not publish the results in a scientific journal. I very nearly lost my job. 

In the intervening decades I often wondered why other scientists haven't reported on this phenomenon but now I finally feel vindicated. A number of scientific studies in recent years have identified sweat as a major pathway for the eliminating of toxins from the human body. 

Ron Sell 

Retired USDA Chemist

To Read Subsequent Developments Click HERE


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

Pacific Ag Presentation to Port of Sunnyside Sept 6, 2022

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

FOTC TIA Evaluation August 28, 2023

FOTC Appeal to City of Sunnyside Sept 22, 2023

SS RNG Addendum Letter October 8, 2023

City of Sunnyside Notice of Addendum November 28, 2023

Notice of Addendum November 28, 2023

Addendum Comments Center for Food Safety December 5, 2023

Addendum Comments FOTC December 17, 2023

More Addendum Comments December 19, 2023

SS RNG MDNS Revised January 25, 2024

FOTC Appeal of MDNS February 1, 2024

Pacific Ag Response to Questions Feb 1, 2024

City of Sunnnyside Response to Appeal Feb 6, 2024

FOTC to SS City Council Feb 10, 2024

FOTC to SS City Council Feb 11, 2024



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

8. Total Maximum Daily Loads

9. TMDLs & CAFOs

10. WET Testing

11. Opinion EPA & the Clean Water Act

12. Data Omission

13. Groundwater Monitoring


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: