Long Island The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has fined Nelson Farms $46,000 for violations of state water quality regulations and permit requirements.
KDHE ordered Nelson Farms to clean up and properly abandon some of its pens, upgrade pollution controls at silage storage areas or abandon those areas and to make repairs or upgrades to monitoring wells and water pollution control structures.
Owner Terry Nelson said he received notification of the fine on Feb. 27, and has filed an appeal for a hearing. No hearing date has been set.
Although the company operates five cattle feedlots in Norton and Phillips counties, only two are affected by the order.
Nelson said the allegations listed in the 14-page report from the KDHE's Topeka office are not accurate.
"They twisted the facts so far, it's not even funny," Nelson said. "It's an injustice to the whole system, the way Topeka has grabbed ahold of it."
According to the KDHE complaint, a neighbor of the Norton County farm notified Nelson that water runoff from an irrigation pivot was running into his pasture.
Nelson inspected the runoff and reported to the KDHE northwest district office that he discovered the lagoon pump switch had been improperly wired after a new pivot was installed and that the new pump had been running for 48 hours. That caused the excess lagoon water to run onto a neighbor's pasture.
Tests indicated that diluted wastewater reached the pond. For that, KDHE fined Nelson for violating the terms and conditions if the waste control permit for failure to properly check the irrigation system after the changes.
In an April 2000 inspection letter regarding the Phillips County facility, KDHE noted a number of deficiencies, including discharge and disposal practices as well as potential pollution concerns.
Nelson Farms also was cited for the improper installation of monitoring wells on some of its lagoons.
"There are very few lagoons in the state of Kansas that have monitoring wells, and we have eight lagoons that have them. We put the monitoring wells in to make sure there's no water contamination. It basically proves that the wells are sealed," Nelson said. "It was a sharp job, but we had to take them all back out and redo them."
Nelson said KDHE has the wrong focus.
"We've had a very good working relationship on just addressing the issues," he said. "We were the first permitted cattle facility in Phillips County. We've been here the longest, and we've got the best controls in place."