Agricultural Producers Beware: Dairy Owner Sentenced to Home Detention and Ordered to Pay Penalties for Cattle Wastes Discharged into French Broad River

On April 30, 2015, the owner of one of North Carolina’s largest dairy farms, William Franklin Johnston, was sentenced to four years probation, six months of which must be spent in home detention, and has been ordered to pay a $15,000 fine, for his role in discharging cattle feces into the French Broad River in violation of the Clean Water Act.  Johnston’s company, Tap Root Dairy, LLC, was also fined $80,000 and placed on a four-year probationary period.

Johnston and Tap Root Dairy failed to renew the certification for the Operator in Charge to oversee the operation’s animal waste management, and, despite numerous warnings, for a total of 93 days, Johnston and Tap Root employees failed to monitor and maintain the levels of cattle wastes in containment lagoons, resulting in the discharge of 11,000 gallons of cow feces into the French Broad River in December 2012.

The French Broad River supplies drinking water to more than one million people and is used for recreation, including swimming and kayaking.  Tap Root Dairy is located on a section of the French Broad River already impaired for fecal coliform bacteria.

Read the EPA’s press release here.

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Rita Bolt Barker

Rita Bolt Barker is an experienced litigator and counselor, focusing primarily on environmental, commercial litigation, and insurance coverage matters.

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