Friends of Toppenish Creek

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 16, 2016

 

Contact: Jean Mendoza: 509-874-2798, jeanrmendoza@icloud.com

 

Investigation of the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency

 

     Friends of Toppenish Creek is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization 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.

 

     For many years FOTC has attempted to work with the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency (YRCAA) to improve air quality in Yakima County, especially in areas near very large dairies.  But air quality is worsening.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the amount of ammonia emitted to the air in Yakima County in 2008 was 6,078 tons. In 2011 ammonia emissions were 8,054 tons. On behalf of the children and vulnerable people who live in Yakima County FOTC now seeks assistance at the state and federal levels.

 

     On Friday, June 10, 2016 FOTC sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Division of Civil Rights asking that agency to withhold further funding to YRCAA due to longstanding discrimination against people who live in the Lower Yakima Valley.

 

     On the same day FOTC sent a letter to the WA State Dept. of Ecology asking that agency to investigate and de-regulate YRCAA based on a failure to act in good faith and proof that YRCAA does not fulfill its mission, is ineffective.

 

     These are some of the motivations for these letters:

 

  1. If dairies were factories they would be required to report the massive amounts of ammonia and volatile organic compounds emitted to the ambient air. Some of these chemicals cause cancer. Others cause birth defects. All affect lung health.
  2. Yakima County has the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma, highest rates of hospitalization for myocardial infarction and the highest percentages of preterm births for all large counties in Washington State.  All these conditions have been associated with high levels of fine particulate matter in the ambient air. Yakima County is close to non-compliance with federal standards for fine particulate matter. Ammonia is a major precursor for fine particulate matter.
  3. The YRCAA created an Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy in 2013 with the stated purpose “To clarify what constitutes ‘reasonable precautions to prevent’ emissions as required by WAC 173-400-040(3)”. FOTC believes that YRCAA does not have the authority or the technical expertise required to clarify state law.
  4. The Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy was created behind closed doors without public input. The policy ignored the recommendations provided by citizens who commented after the policy was completed.
  5. There is absolutely no air testing involved in the Air Quality Management Policy and Best Management Practices for Dairy Operations policy and consequently no possibility of proving that air quality is changing. In order to invoke BMPs as solutions there must be objective measurements.
  6. The YRCAA does not investigate citizen complaints of air pollution in a timely manner and does not follow its own policies for investigation. It is ludicrous to test the air 48 hours after an event and state that there was no problem.
  7. The YRCAA does not provide written material in Spanish in spite of the fact that a significant portion of the population in the Lower Yakima Valley does not understand English or does not understand English well.  
  8. The YRCAA taxes the cities of Wapato, Toppenish and Harrah, as well as Yakima County for the 31,000 people who live on the Yakama Reservation. But the YRCAA provides no services to these people.
  9. In January of 2016 two local newspapers published an article entitled Study Finds Low Ammonia Emissions at Area Dairies. The publisher told FOTC that the YRCAA approved the article. It stated, “The Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency continues to work on improving air quality with local residents and businesses, including farms. Although research reveals small amounts of ammonia emissions from farms, experts say these emissions are insignificant and do not pose an overall threat to human health.” This statement is untrue, and harmful to the people who rely on a taxpayer funded agency for reliable health information.

 

     For these reasons and more FOTC believes that the YRCAA should be defunded and de-regulated. The Washington State Department of Ecology must investigate the agency and take over management of air quality in Yakima County. The EPA must intervene as a matter of environmental justice.

 

Friends of Toppenish Creek

 

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PARA PUBLICACION INMEDIATA

16 de junio 2016

 

Contacto: Jean Mendoza: 509-874-2798, jeanrmendoza@icloud.com

 

La investigación de la Agencia Regional de Aire Limpio de Yakima

 

Amigos de Toppenish Creek (conocido como FOTC las siglas en ingles), es una organización de no lucrativo 501(c)(3) dedicada a la protección de los derechos de las comunidades rurales y para mejorar la supervisión de la agricultura industrial. FOTC funciona bajo el principio simple de que todas las personas merecen aire limpio, agua limpia y protección contra el abuso que se produce cuando el dinero se favorece sobre la gente. FOTC trabaja usando la educación pública, las investigaciones manejadas por los ciudadanos, análisis, la legislación, eventos especiales, y acción directa.

 

Por muchos años FOTC ha tratado de trabajar con la Agencia Regional de Aire Limpio (YRCAA, las siglas en ingles) para mejorar la calidad del aire en el Condado de Yakima, especialmente en las zonas cercanas a industrias lácteas grandes. Sin embargo, la calidad del aire está empeorando. Según la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, las siglas en inglés) en 2008 la cantidad de amoníaco emitido al aire en el Condado de Yakima fue de 6.078 toneladas. En el año 2011 las emisiones de amoníaco fueron 8.054 toneladas. De parte de los niños y las personas vulnerables que viven en el Condado de Yakima FOTC ahora busca ayuda en los niveles estatal y federal.

 

El viernes 10 de junio 2016 FOTC envió una carta a la División de EE.UU. Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Derechos Civiles pidiendo que la agencia retenga fondos para YRCAA debido a la discriminación que ha existido por mucho tiempo contra las personas que viven en el Valle Bajo de Yakima.

 

El mismo día FOTC envió una carta al Departamento de Ecología del Estado de Washington pidiendo que la Agencia desregular  e investigue  YRCAA basado en la falta de actuar de buena fe y prueba de que YRCAA no ha cumplido con su misión y porque no es efectivo.

 

Estas son algunas de las motivaciones de estas letras:

 

1. Si las industrias lácteas eran fábricas estarían obligados a informar las cantidades grandes de amoníaco y compuestos orgánicos volátiles emitidos al aire ambiente. Algunos de estos químicos causan cáncer. Otros causan defectos de nacimiento. Todo estos afectan los  pulmones.

 

2. El Condado de Yakima tiene las índices más altas de hospitalización por asma, índices más altos de hospitalización por infarto de miocardio y los más altos porcentajes de nacimientos prematuros comparado a los otros condados más grandes en el estado de Washington. Todas estas condiciones se han asociado con altos niveles de partículas finas en el aire ambiente. El Condado de Yakima está a punto de superar los estándares federales para las partículas finas en el aire. El amoníaco es una pieza fundamental para la materia participada fina.

 

3. En 2013, el YRCAA creo una policía “Las Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras” con el propósito de "aclarar lo que constituye ' precauciones razonables para evitar' emisiones requerido por WAC 173-400-040 (3)". FOTC cree que YRCAA no tiene la autoridad o los conocimientos técnicos necesarios para aclarar la ley del estado.

 

4. Las Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras fueron creado a puerta cerrada y sin tomar en cuento la opinión del público. Las pólizas ignoran las recomendaciones proporcionadas por los ciudadanos que hicieron comentarios después de que se completó la póliza.

 

5. No hay absolutamente ninguna prueba científica de aire en la Pólizas y Prácticas Administrativas Sobre la Calidad del Aire Para las Operaciones Lecheras por lo tanto no hay posibilidad de probar que la calidad del aire está cambiando. Para acogerse a las BMP como soluciones debe haber mediciones.

 

6. El YRCAA no investiga quejas de los ciudadanos sobre contaminación del aire en el momento oportuno y no sigue sus propias pólizas para la investigación. Es absurdo tomar pruebas del aire 48 horas después de un evento y decir que no había ningún problema.

 

7. El YRCAA no proporciona material escrito en español a pesar que una parte significativa de la población en el Valle Bajo de Yakima no entiende Inglés o no entiende bien el idioma Inglés.

 

8. El YRCAA les cobra impuestos a las cuidades de Wapato, Toppenish y Harrah, también al Condado de Yakima por las 31,000 personas que viven en la reservación Yakama. Pero el YRCAA no provee servicios a estas personas.

 

9. En enero de 2016 dos periódicos locales publicaron un artículo titulado Estudio Encuentra Bajas Emisiones de Amoníaco en la Area de Lácteos. El editor le dijo a FOTC que YRCAA había aprobado el artículo. El articulo decía: "La Agencia de Aire Limpio Regional de Yakima continúa trabajando para mejorar la calidad del aire con los residentes y negocios locales, incluyendo las granjas. Aunque la investigación revela pequeñas cantidades de emisiones de amoniaco de las granjas, los expertos dicen que estas emisiones son insignificantes y no ponen una amenaza sobre la salud de ser humanos. "Esta declaración es falsa, y perjudicial a las personas que dependen de una organización financiada por impuestos para obtener información de salud en el que pueden confiar. 

 

Por estas razones y otras, FOTC cree que deben de quitarle los fundos y desregular YRCAA. El Departamento de Ecología del Estado de Washington debe investigar YRCCA  y hacerse cargo de la administración de la calidad del aire en el Condado de Yakima. La EPA debe intervenir como un asunto de justicia ambiental.

 

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Message to Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency – August, 13, 2015

I am here to talk politics with respect to air pollution in Yakima County.

We know that agriculture contributes to air pollution. It would help if the agencies that are authorized to address problems in the Yakima Valley would tell us how much of local air pollution comes from each segment of agriculture. They have not done this so we are left with estimates from the literature.

There comes a time when the amount of pollution exceeds the ability of the environment to absorb it and compensate. For example, ammonia in the air acts as a fertilizer to plants. It is absorbed through their leaves. . . . up to a point. After that point it becomes toxic to the plants. After that point ammonia kills the plants. It would help if the agencies that are authorized to address air pollution problems in the Yakima Valley would provide an estimate of how much air pollution we can tolerate.

Eutrophication

We know that air pollution contributes to eutrophication of the rivers and streams and that this worsens during periods of drought. We know that the Lower Yakima River is currently green with invasive plants that put this stretch of the river in the “impaired” category for pH and dissolved oxygen. (Wise et al, 2009). It would help to describe and clarify how ammonia in the air contributes to this situation. We all need this information in order to solve our collective problems.

 

      Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Service

Cost Benefit

Air pollution related costs for some individuals and groups far exceeds any benefits they received from agriculture. We need to know who pays the price for pollution and how much.

 

 

Source: WA State Department of Health, Washington Tracking Network at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/wtn/WTNPortal/#!q0=370

 

 Industry Argument against Regulation

Earlier this summer the Washington State Department of Ecology submitted a plan to address Non-Point Source Pollution in the state. This plan is required in order for Washington to receive certain federal monies. The Washington State Dairy Federation (WSDF) submitted a comment regarding Chapter 3 of that plan Strategies for Addressing Non-Point Source Pollution. (WA DOE, 2015, page 98)

Extreme regulations and costs will devastate the dairy industry in our state. Given that dairy is the most - regulated sector of agriculture, it stands to reason that even in the best - case scenarios is that dairy would be replaced with less – regulated agriculture. Often, when a farm of any kind goes out of business, the result is sprawl of large - lot estates with septic systems. Local governments also experience greater costs to serve and protect neighborhoods and homes in this kind of sprawl. (Emphasis added)

This last statement is disturbing, given that dairies have aggressively moved in on established communities and farms in Yakima County; given that dairies have driven many, many people from their homes. Is the WSDF saying that dairies are valuable because they drive people from rural homes into urban ghettos and it costs government less to service people when they live like this?

 

Wood Stoves

There is an EPA document entitled Reducing Air Pollution from Residential Wood Burning that says “Just 20 old non-EPA-certified wood stoves can emit more than 1 ton of fine particles into your community during the cold months of the year.” This comes to 100 pounds of fine particulate per stove.  That is a lot of smoke.  We know that the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency has done a heroic job of replacing old wood stoves with more efficient ones.  But . . . are wood stoves really the leading cause of air pollution in the Yakima Valley?

 

According to Dr. L.E. Chase from Cornell University (2011) one milk cow produces about:

Other Sources of Fine Particulates

 

YAWNS: Smoke from wood stoves is not the only source of particulate matter in the Yakima Valley. We know from the Yakima Air Winter Nitrate Study (YAWNS) (WA DOE, 2014) that a significant portion of fine particulate matter is in the form of NH4NO3. The YAWNS was mostly performed in the upper Yakima Valley which limits the analysis regarding agriculture. The authors of the YAWNS stated that there was more NH3 available than NO3 and that NO3 was the limiting factor. They stated that NO3 is primarily the product of vehicle emissions. Read on.

 

Fertilizer Application: The literature tells us that, in rural areas, N2O and NOx emissions from fertilizer application may be the dominating sources. (Sheppard et al, 1991; Bouwman et al, 2002). This is important for those of us who live in the lower valley. Traffic here is not heavy. If we are suffering from high levels of particulate matter, if the limiting factor is NOx, and if the major source of NOx is fertilizer application, then the solutions for the lower Yakima Valley are different from city solutions. The fact that some very large farms have over applied fertilizer and manures, up to nine times as much as the crops can utilize, suggests that this would be an easy target for addressing the problem. In the case of dairy operations nutrient management plans have failed to stop this over application.

 

Dairy Research: According to Dr. A.N. Hristov in the Journal of Dairy Science (2011, page 3135), if all NO3 and SO4 in the air react with NH3 to form fine particulates then about 19% of winter PM 2.5 in the northwest is due to animal agriculture. Remember, this is a regional assessment for the northwest as a whole. With more farming and less industry the percentage of PM 2.5 due to NH3NO3  is much higher in our community.

 

Local Solutions

There is a very appropriate emphasis on local involvement to develop local solutions. Environmentalist Jan Whitefoot has recently stated that no one is going to come and save us, that we must do this ourselves. On many levels the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency speaks for the Yakima Valley. That is your job. It is also the County Commissioners’ job.  YRCAA has both the opportunity and obligation to tell the world that air pollution is harming both the people and the environment in the Yakima Valley. We ask YRCAA to do the following:

  1. Analyze and describe how much air pollution comes from each major segment of agriculture in Yakima County
  2. Analyze and describe the impact of wet and dry deposition of ammonia and ammonium on the land, vegetation, rivers and streams in Yakima County
  3. Estimate the cost and benefits from PM 2.5 and ammonia with respect to public health, fisheries, recreation, tourism and the tax base in Yakima County
  4. Seek funding for relevant research and mitigation programs
  5. Correctly inform outside researchers and agencies about the unique characteristics of the Yakima Valley, for example:

a. The likelihood that NOx in the Lower Yakima Valley comes from fertilizing fields

b. The likelihood that air pollution contributes to eutrophication in the river

c. The likelihood that elevated hospitalization rates for asthma and myocardial infarction are related to high levels of fine particulate matter.

d. The importance of the people in the Yakima Valley who work very long and hard hours to harvest the crops that feed the state and the nation. We are more than units of production on Wall Street spreadsheets.

  1. 6.       Discuss and analyze the ways that air pollution impacts all aspects of life in the Yakima Valley.
  2. 7.       Read and consider the document Hidden Cost of U.S. Agricultural Exports: Particulate Matter from Ammonia Emissions by Harvard scientists Fabien Paulot and Daniel J. Jacob.
  3. Inform decision makers that lung health is not addressed in the Yakima Valley in spite of the fact that we have the worst air quality in the state.  Here are the facts:

a. The Yakima Health District does not address lung health.

b. The budget for the Yakima Health District is less than the budget deficit for the King County Health District

c. Our population over all has lower socio-economic status than most others in the state and is in need of more services, not less.

d. The Yakima Valley Farmworker’s Clinic cares for a large part of the county population with asthma. In years past John Thayer and Griselda Arias-Pedraza led that program. Now Griselda is doing it alone.

d. The American Lung Association no longer maintains an office in Yakima

e. The WA State Department of Health Asthma program was reduced in size and scope over a year ago. In the past there was a project coordinator who did a wonderful job of sending out monthly information and setting up workshops. That no longer happens.

 

  1. Impose appropriate regulations that control Yakima Valley air pollution. Voluntary measures do not work as evidenced by:

a. Large operations apply up to nine times more manure/fertilizer than the crops can take up

b. Farm experts currently promote composting as a way to mitigate water pollution. Composting increases the loss of reactive nitrogen to the atmosphere. WSDA estimates that about 50% of nitrogen in stored manure is lost to the atmosphere.

c. When citizens asked for simple moratorium on spreading manure/fertilizer during air inversions the Washington Dairy Commission resisted in a strong and successful manner that included mischaracterization of the literature and practices in the Yakima Valley.

d. There are programs underway that promote an increase in the number of dairy cows in the Lower Yakima Valley. Even if all operations are well managed, which they are not, this increase in the number of animals will increase the emission of ammonia and greenhouse gasses.

The environmental community has clearly demonstrated a willingness and eagerness to participate in air quality solutions. Please let us provide data, help with grant writing, inform the research, and help YRCAA to advocate on behalf of the people and the land. I can personally volunteer one full day a week of professional time to this project.

 

With all due respect, I ask the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency Board of Directors to review this letter over the next month and provide an official response at your September meeting.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jean Mendoza

Executive Director, Friends of Toppenish Creek

3142 Signal Peak Road

White Swan, WA 98952

 

 References:

Bouwman, A. F., Boumans, L. J. M., & Batjes, N. H. (2002). Emissions of N2O and NO from fertilized fields: Summary of available measurement data. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 16(4), 6-1. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2001GB001811/full

 

Chase, L.E. (2011) How much gas do cows produce? Progressive Dairyman – Manure Basics. Retrieved from http://www.progressivedairy.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=6491:how-much-gas-do-cows-produce&Itemid=121

 

Hristov, A. N., Hanigan, M., Cole, A., Todd, R., McAllister, T. A., Ndegwa, P. M., & Rotz, A. (2011). Review: ammonia emissions from dairy farms and beef feedlots 1. Canadian Journal of Animal Science, 91(1), 1-35. Abstract from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269989507_Review_Ammonia_emissions_from_dairy_farms_and_beef_feedlots_1

 

Paulot, F., & Jacob, D. J. (2014). Hidden cost of US agricultural exports: particulate matter from ammonia emissions. Environmental science & technology, 48(2), 903-908. Retrieved from http://acmg.seas.harvard.edu/publications/2014/paulot_export_2014.pdf

 

 

Shepherd, M. F., Barzetti, S., & Hastie, D. R. (1991). The production of atmospheric NO x and N2O from a fertilized agricultural soil. Atmospheric Environment. Part A. General Topics, 25(9), 1961-1969. Retrieved from http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10315/4141/HAS026.pdf?sequence=1

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2005) Reducing Air Pollution from Residential Wood Burning. Retrieved from  http://www.epa.gov/oaqps001/community/guide/wood_stoves_oo_sheet.pdf

Washington State Department of Ecology (2015) Washington’s Water Quality Management Plan to Control Nonpoint Sources of Pollution – Response to Comments.  Retrieved from https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/parts/1510015part1.pdf

 

Washington State Department of Ecology (2014) The Yakima Air Wintertime Nitrate Study – Final Report. Retrieved from http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/air_monitoring_data/PDFs/Yakima_Air_Winter_Study_Report.pdf

                                                                        

Washington Tracking Network (n.d.) A Source for Public Health Data.  Washington State Department of Health. Retrieved from https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/wtn/WTNPortal/#!q0=370

 

Wise, D. R., Zuroske, M. L., Carpenter, K. D., & Kiesling, R. L. (2009). Assessment of Eutrophication in the Lower Yakima River Basin, Washington, 2004-07. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved from http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2009/5078/pdf/sir20095078.pdf

 

 

 

 

 


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Five Corner Family Farms is a group of dryland wheat farmers in eastern Franklin County. In 2008 a 30,000 head feedlot moved onto land next to their homes. Here is a sequence of pictures showing the air quality on the road to that feedlot.