While Heard Farms has paid the $11,538 civil penalty issued by the Department of Environmental Quality for violations of water quality law, owner Dick Heard maintains the farm did not discharge waste into state waters as the DEQ claims.
“It was just natural runoff from the field,” Heard said, adding the DEQ inspection had taken place in the rainy month of October 2016. The rain causes runoff from the fields into ditches and a pond on the Heard property, he said.
Heard Farms operates a wastewater collection and treatment system at its Douglas County location.
After the October 2016 visit, DEQ officials cited the farm and said it also violated a water quality standard for ammonia and a biosolids management condition of its Water Pollution Control Facilities permit. About a year later, DEQ issued a notice of the fine and requested Heard Farms to remove and properly dispose of specific piles of biosolids.
Heard said he chose not to request a hearing about the penalty because he wants to make things right and move forward.
“We try to do our best to have a good relationship with the DEQ so I’m not making much of a fuss and I paid the fine and moved on,” Heard said.
Heard said after the inspection, he had a separate hydrologist test the water near the property. According to him, runoff with high amounts of nitrogen had been coming onto the Heard property from that of the neighbors who had originally complained about Heard Farms.
The neighbors had also expressed concern about a fetid smell and air quality in Wilbur produced by the sewage at the farm.
Heard Farms is in the process of modifying its Biosolids Management Plan to improve how it treats the wastewater.
“I’m not saying we ever treated the water in a manner that was detrimental to the environment in the first place, but this will be a much better system,” Heard said.
The DEQ held an informational meeting Wednesday night to inform the public about the potential changes to the farm’s Wilbur site and to hear comments before drafting permit modifications.