OLYMPIA -- A former Skagit County dairy farmer was sentenced to four days in jail after pleading guilty to four counts of violating the Washington Water Pollution Control Act for illegally dumping manure into a nearby drainage ditch.
Edward J. Koopmans entered his plea in front of Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer. He was ordered to pay a criminal fine of $20,000 and sentenced to serve two years in jail. All except four days of the jail term was suspended on the condition that Koopmans be on probation for two years without committing any similar violations or violating any other laws. He must also pay court costs in the amount of $110 and a crime-victim compensation assessment of $500, as conditions of his suspended sentence.
"We feel this sentence should act as a strong deterrent to those individuals who act irresponsibly and threaten the state's natural resources, which potentially affect our drinking water, fish and wildlife and public waterways," said Assistant Attorney General Jerry Ackerman.
In addition to his sentence, Koopmans must also pay a $20,000 civil penalty assessed against him by the state Department of Ecology.
"Honest dairy farmers shouldn't have to compete against farmers who cut costs by cutting corners on environmental protection," said John Glynn, Ecology's regional water quality manager. "We'll support the efforts of dairy farmers who protect the environment, but we'll enforce the law against those who don't."
The case was prosecuted by the Washington Attorney General's Office, with the concurrence of the Skagit County Prosecutor's Office. The case was investigated jointly by the Attorney General, the Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Koopmans' illegal acts were brought to the attention of the Department of Ecology by upset neighbors, who complained he was pumping overflowing manure lagoons directly into a drainage ditch behind his farm west of Mount Vernon. The ditch, known as the Lockhart-Jewett Ditch, eventually empties into Padilla Bay.
After responding to a complaint in 1995 about manure running off of Koopmans' farm, Ecology referred him to the Skagit Conservation District, as required by state law, for help in developing a manure management plan. Ecology and the Conservation District attempted for two years to obtain Koopmans' compliance prior to referring the case to criminal investigators. The civil penalty was assessed this year after Koopmans failed to develop that plan.