Slow progress in finding solutions to nitrate problem

Slow progress in finding solutions to nitrate problem »Play Video
SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- The Ground Water Management Area is looking to fix the nitrate levels in our water. But, everything is at a standstill right now as farmers find themselves in a Catch-22.

In order for the Ground Water Management Area to find solutions for the problems with nitrates in the Lower Valley, they have to actually get onto some land and test the soil.

However, previously five dairy farmers were sued for allegations of pollution after volunteering to be in a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency. So now, landowners don't want to take the risk.

Jason Sheehan along with his wife Karen are the owners of J & K Dairy in Sunnyside. He's just one just one of many farmers in the Lower Valley trying to make an honest living.

"The majority of us farmers are all family owned businesses and this is our livelihood and everything we've worked for our whole lives," said Sheehan.

The thought of losing it all, isn't something they're comfortable with.

It's why landowners throughout the county are hesitant to allow the Ground Water Management Area onto their land as they search for solutions to the problem of nitrates.

"For us to volunteer for a program its got to be something that we're protected from cause we don't just have a job to lose, we have our whole livelihood to lose and everything we've ever worked for," said Sheehan.

Without actual samples, the Ground Water Management Area can't move ahead with their testing. Officials say they're working with attorneys and staff to come up with a way to protect the landowners from future lawsuits.

They're looking to not only dairy farmers but a variety of other sources that can contribute to nitrates in our drinking water such as fertilizers and chicken farmers. Many farmers like Sheehan already test their land for nitrates.

"My wife and I have four small children, our youngest is just over a year old and so obviously we want good safe drinking water for ourselves and our kids," said Sheehan.

Protecting ourselves from nitrates in our water is something everyone will have to work together on.

Officials hope to have plans in place for testing by the end of 2014.

Groundwater Management Area officials say they make the recommendations, but then it's up to the agencies to make any changes.