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EPA Improperly Withholds Information Vital to Public Health

EPA Improperly Withholds Information Vital to Public Health

Despite the threat of a lawsuit brought by Public Justice against Yakima Valley (Washington) industrial dairies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing to improperly withhold information vital to the public health, acting in direct dereliction of its duties under the Freedom of Information Act.

In December 2012, EPA sampled groundwater in various areas surrounding five of Yakima Valley’s largest dairies. The sampling occurred as part of EPA’s further investigation into the source of the excessive nitrate contamination, which EPA had already confirmed was fouling Yakima County’s groundwater.

Public Justice believes that EPA’s withholding of information from the people of the Yakima Valley plainly demonstrates that the agency is acting in collusion with the offending dairies to prevent complete and timely access to governmental documents, at the expense of both the public health and the environment.

Public Justice clients Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) made a request for EPA’s sampling records in late January of this year. Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, EPA was required to make a determination on that request within twenty business days. Rather than respond to the request, however, EPA has deliberately concealed the results of the December sampling.

“This choice by EPA is especially egregious given that the agency and the dairies are currently engaged in secret, backroom negotiations concerning the dairies’ pollution of groundwater,” said Public Justice attorney Jessica Culpepper. “The impacted residents of the Yakima Valley have no input on these negotiations.”

CARE and CFS are dismayed that the EPA appears to have succumbed to the pressures of the dairy lobby, opting to put politics before the health of Yakima Valley residents.