Center for Food Safety files lawsuit against a Cape Vincent farm, owner says it has no merit

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 4:43 PM EDT
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CAPE VINCENT, New York (WWNY) - “Just blown away. One hundred percent, just could not believe it,” said Lyle Wood, President of Wood Farms, LLC.

That was Wood’s reaction when he first found out his farm is facing a civil suit from the Center for Food Safety. It claims Wood Farms, LLC has been violating the Clean Water Act for more than 5 years. The Center for Food Safety says the farm discharges pollutants like animal waste, solid and liquid manure, and wastewater into Willow Creek, which runs into the St. Lawrence River.

“The foam you see in the pictures is a related to phosphorus which is a major component of the manure waste that comes from a place like Wood Farms,” said Charlie Tebbutt, an Attorney for the Center for Food Safety.

Tebbutt represents the Center for Food Safety. His organization leveled four charges in March against Wood Farms, LLC, claiming they were to blame for the alleged pollution seen in the creek. The charges center around the application and storage of manure.

Tebbutt’s group believes the manure lagoons currently being used by large dairy farms are not properly designed to prevent discharge from absorbing into the ground, and into the creek.

“As anyone knows, if you did a hole in the ground, and you put, I was going to say an explicative you would have to delete, manure in it, it’s going to leak. It leaks, and it goes to the ground, and to the ground water which goes to the river,” said Tebbutt.

Wood says the claims are false, and he believes the state agrees.

“So, the DEC went and named every spot in the lawsuit, and had a response for every claim,” said Wood.

Wood references a letter from the DEC to Tebbutt in February. It states that the three clay-lined lagoons located on the facility were evaluated and certified and should have minimal impact on the ground water.

The lawsuit also alleges samples taken from the creek contain high levels of coliform and E. Coli bacteria.

“They tested it once, you’re supposed to test it six times in thirty days, not once,” said Wood.

The DEC agrees with Wood, stating in its letter the water sample submitted appears to be from a single testing. The state requires a minimum of 5 samples taken in a 30-day period. Tebbutt believes despite the DEC’s letter, the Center for Food Safety has a strong case, saying he believes someone needs to be held responsible for the pollution associated with large dairy farming.