Sumas berry farm fined $20,000 for manure runoff into Saar Creek

A berry farm in Sumas has been fined $20,000 for allowing water contaminated with manure to get into Saar Creek, a tributary of the Sumas River.

Both bodies of water flow into British Columbia.

The Washington State Department of Ecology fined Sarbanand Farms, 4625 Rock Road, for two incidents that occurred Nov. 17 and Dec. 9, 2015, according to an Ecology news release.

The farm applied manure solids as a mulch on fields of newly planted blueberry shrubs that hadn’t yet produced fruit, Ecology said, and runoff from those fields had high concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria, which can sicken people.

Tests showed fecal coliform amounts that were up to 175 times greater than the acceptable level, according to Ecology.

Sarbanand received a $4,000 fine for a similar incident from the same field in fall 2013.

“Manure can be a valuable fertilizer, soil amendment or mulch when properly managed, but timing is everything,” said Doug Allen, manager of Ecology’s office in Bellingham. “Applying manure in the fall, at the start of our rainy season, is always risky.”

The runoff, unfortunately, was caused by heavy rain that flooded the fields, said Cliff Woolley, representative for Sarbanand, which was working with Ecology to develop a plan to avoid problems in the future.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea