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In Lane County, a pile of horse manure draws a lawsuit

The manure pile, as seen from a bird's eye view of the Lakeview Stables property.
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The manure pile, as seen from a bird's eye view of the Lakeview Stables property.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is suing a Eugene-area business over a large pile of horse manure.

Lakeview Stables is located about a mile from Fern Ridge Reservoir. It’s now accused of keeping uncovered manure on its property, totaling hundreds-of-thousands of cubic feet.

In a lawsuit filed in Lane County Circuit Court last month, the state said it’s been asking the business to address this pile since 2016, handing out two notices of non-compliance and three fines.

However, the state alleges that the business' owner, Carolyn Thom, has repeatedly failed to follow its orders.

“The State of Oregon is entitled to an injunction from this court prohibiting defendant from further violating the agricultural water quality management rules,” the lawsuit read.

The ODA argues that with the pile's current location, animal waste is likely to escape into nearby groundwater and surface water, potentially carrying E. coli and nitrate into state waterways.

"[The] defendant placed thousands of cubic feet of horse manure and other animal waste directly on the ground (i.e., with no underlying impermeable barrier) at the Lakeview Property, uncovered by vegetation or other means," the lawsuit read.

Lakeview is linked to Fern Ridge through a drainage ditch. According to state officials, run-off from the property enters the road between 3,000 and 5,000 feet from the reservoir.

In November 2016, an ODA sampling of stormwater found that the amount of E. coli that was entering the ditch was very low and well within regulations. But state officials said there could be more risk seasonally.

The state is now asking the court to force Lakeview Stables to remove at least 60% of the manure pile within 30 days of a ruling. It's also requesting that future waste be stored in approved containers or on impermeable surfaces, before being exported off-site.

Lakeview Stables didn’t respond to KLCC's interview request, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture declined to comment further, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

The lawsuit was first reported by The Oregonian. KLCC independently obtained documents related to the case.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.