Parishville farm facing fine after manure runoff; residents fear contamination of wells, Potsdam water supply
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 8:51 am

The photo above shows manure runoff that was flowing in a creek in Parishville. DEC investigated the incident. Photo by Gary Snell.

By MATT LINDSEY

North Country Now

PARISHVILLE – Conservation officers investigated a manure runoff from a farm on State Highway 72 Feb. 5 that has some community members fearing pollution of drinking wells and Village of Potsdam water supply.

DEC officials say the runoff did not impact public or private water supplies, but also states that the farm would be fined.

The manure runoff was from Adon Farms, 401 State Highway 72. Nick Gilbert, an owner, declined to speak with North Country This Week about the incident. A message was left with another owner, Tony Gilbert. As of print, he did not respond to the message asking for comment.

“DEC determined that the runoff did not impact public or private water supplies and observed no health or environmental impacts,” according to Andrea C. Pedrick, public participation specialist. “At the time of the inspections, there were no visual signs of the release.”

Parishville resident Gary Snell, Jr. reported the incident to DEC and said by the time DEC officials showed up the weather had changed and had frozen the runoff, which is why it wasn’t flowing when DEC was on scene.

Snell said he confronted the farmers and reported it to the Department of Environmental Concern (DEC). He also shared a video on Facebook of the liquid manure running through his property. The video can be viewed here.

“This is draining into Garfield Brook and eventually the Raquette River, the Village of Potsdam's water supply,” Snell said. “Maybe it should be of some concern to you if you are drinking this?”

The Department of Environmental Conservation sent an officer to the scene.

“Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) immediately responded to a complaint of possible manure runoff from a farm on Route 72 in the town of Parishville,” Pedrick said.

DEC ECO Brian Boyer came from Watertown to investigate the complaint and inspected the area.

“DEC Division of Water staff are at the site (Feb. 7) and are taking all necessary actions to protect public health and the environment,” Pedrick said.

“The area the manure was spread on was approximately 25 acres and incorporated sloped ground and the ground was frozen and snow covered,” Snell said. “During the warm weather and rain at the beginning of the week, the runoff onto my property was unacceptable by anyone's standard.”

Jon Potter has lived downhill from the farm for over 30 years and has had to deal with drainage issues from farm fields nearly the entire time.

The issues early on were tied to water in the basement, but as the farm grew in size over the years, it turned nastier.

DEC Investigation

“DEC concluded that there were no impacts to private or public water supplies based on observations and the distance between the impacted surface water and the drinking water sources,” Pedrick said. “DEC took all necessary actions to protect public health and the environment.”

Pedrick says DEC is monitoring the farm owner’s actions to address the liquid manure runoff and will issue fines for violations of the Clean Water Act (amounts to be determined) to the site owner.

“The farm owner reports that a new employee spread liquid manure approximately one month ago on a portion of the field that slopes to an unnamed tributary,” Pedrick said. “This portion of the field is traditionally avoided when spreading liquid manure. The farm is taking action with the employee.”

DEC regularly inspects farms with permitted Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and vigorously enforces all violations of the state's strict Environmental Conservation Laws and the Clean Water Act, she said.

Decades of drainage

Potter, who lives on SH 72, says mid-winter thaws have flooded his basement with runoff from Adon Farms fields. Over time that included getting “manure” water in his basement.

Potter and his wife have always wondered if the runoff is getting into their well, but have never had testing done.

“We probably don’t have an issue,” Potters said, noting he and his family have never had any sort of unexplained health issues. “It’s always in the back of your mind though – and maybe I don’t even want to know.”

Potter approach the Gilberts and asked them not to spray manure on the piece of land that would impact his yard and his neighbors yards. He said the runoff has not been as bad on his own property in recent years, but that the runoff still goes into local tributaries that feed the Raquette River, which is where the Village of Potsdam gets their water.

“Seems like the bigger the farm the more you can get away with,” he said. He did acknowledge that spraying manure and farming altogether are necessary, but more care and concern should be taken for those living around the farm.

Potter wonders why the farm owners have not put in some sort of drainage in their fields to divert the manure.

“We need to be good neighbors,” Potter said. “They have the equipment to get it to drain elsewhere and not across all their neighbors yards.”

Miles of manure

The waste is visible for the length of Snell’s property, which is over a mile of stream length of Garfield Brook.

“You don’t have to be a radical environmentalist to find this unacceptable,” Snell said. “We walk this property almost daily, our dog swims in and drinks from this stream. If you trace the route of this stream it eventually flows into the water supply for the Village of Potsdam.”

Snell spoke with Nick Gilbert the day of the runoff. Snell claims Gilbert stated the liquid manure should not have been spread in this area and it was done by mistake.

There is still a substantial amount of waste still in the field that will be running off over the coming months when it thaws or rains. “There is no fix for what is on the field now,” Snell said.

“I am not against farming, I grew up around it and have been around it my entire life,” Snell said. “I'm not even against manure spreading, I know it's necessary, but do it right.”

Snell said he was not aiming to shame or slam Adon Farms or the Gilbert family.

“I really am not into slamming Gilberts but this needs to be brought to light,” Snell said. “It's wrong. I know it is a community concern. This makes all the farmers that are following the rules and doing things right look bad.”