Burley feedlot owner guilty of polluting aquifer
BOISE, Idaho (AP)--A cattle feedlot manager from southern Idaho has been convicted of four counts of violating federal drinking water laws for intentionally discharging fluids into an aquifer.
A federal jury also convicted Cory Ledeal King on April 30 of one count of lying to an Idaho agriculture department inspector who was investigating the 16,000-acre Double C Farms near Burley more than three years ago.
King was convicted in a trial that lasted nearly three days in U.S. District Court in Pocatello. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 24 and King faces up to 14 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors and a 2008 grand jury indictment accused King of knowingly diverting fluids into irrigation wells connected to the aquifer.
"He made a concerted effort to commit the crimes," Mark Measer, supervisor for the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal division in Seattle, told the Associated Press after the verdict.
State and federal concern about operations emerged during a routine waste inspection of the farm's 400-acre feedlot in May 2005 by a state agriculture department inspector. The inspection reviewed the farm's irrigation wells, waste containment ponds and other waste and irrigation infrastructure.
In January 2008, a federal grand jury handed down an indictment that accused King of incorrectly installing backflow valves on the irrigation wells, which allowed water in the above-ground pipes to flow backward and into the wells, according to the indictment.
The grand jury also accused King of burying an irrigation valve and lying about it to investigators and allowing surface water to leak into wells.
King was initially charged in the indictment with discharging wastewater into the aquifer. But a pretrial ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Linn Winmill allowed the jury to only consider if "fluids" were illegally discharged at the farm. The judge also did not provide the jury with a specific definition of fluids.
Defense attorneys maintain that King did nothing more than discharge creek water into the aquifer without proper permits. They also say it's too soon to determine if the case will be appealed.
"We are disappointed that the jury apparently concluded that Cory knew he needed a permit to recharge the aquifer with water from two creeks," Boise attorney David Lombardi told the AP.