The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has fined the Lamb Weston potato processing facility in Hermiston $127,800 for overapplying wastewater containing nitrogen to farmland and causing nitrate groundwater contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin.  


Lamb Weston has a DEQ water quality permit that allows it to use the nitrogen-rich wastewater from its potato processing plant and several other facilities to irrigate and fertilize nearby farms.  However, that permit includes limits on how much nitrogen can be applied to each crop.  While nitrogen is a beneficial plant nutrient, applying too much to land can contribute to nitrate contamination in groundwater. 


DEQ said Lamb Weston exceeded these limits on 90 different occasions, resulting in approximately 446,990 pounds of excess nitrogen being applied onto the land application sites between 2015-2021.  DEQ also cited Lamb Weston for failing to report non-compliance with the permit within five days of the violation, and for a separate spill of almost 25,000 gallons of industrial wastewater to soil. 


DEQ ordered Lamb Weston to develop and implement a plan to ensure compliance with the nitrogen limits in the permit and to conduct a remedial investigation of the aquifer under its land application sites.  DEQ said they are also working with other industrial facilities in the Hermiston area to ensure appropriate land application practices that protect the area’s groundwater.


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