A Pipestone County dairy has been fined $10,000 this week, after a sewage overflow in May spilled 252,000 gallons of manure-contaminated waste into a nearby swimming area.
The incident occurred on May 5 at Pater Dairy, about seven miles south of Pipestone, when a pipe between two manure storage basins became plugged. Manure spilled into a tributary of Split Rock Creek and entered a swimming area at Split Rock Creek State Park.
"It was basically an accident or malfunction of equipment," said Forrest Peterson, spokesperson for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the agency that levied the fine. "Like with any mechanical equipment, things can happen."
County officials reported the spill to state authorities on May 13. After an inspection by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency the following day, the dairy used hay bales to absorb some of the fecal matter. In areas with high fecal concentration, the company used pumps to remove the sewage.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources temporarily closed the swimming area on May 21, after water samples showed high levels of fecal coliform bacteria. The overflow also killed a number of the river's fish.
The incident also revealed that the company had not filed for federal and state permits required for large dairy operations. The company housed 660 dairy cows indoors, plus an additional undetermined number of cows at a nearby facility.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency determined that the two facilities should be counted as one operation. The decision pushed the number of cows over the federal and state thresholds and required the company apply for a permit.
Pater Dairy has 60 days to decide whether to seek a permit or reduce animal numbers.