A 65-year-old Asheville area cattle farmer was sentenced to six months of “house arrest” on Thursday for dumping thousands of pounds of solid and liquid animal waste into a tributary of the French Broad River.
The river supplies drinking water to more than a million people and is frequently used for recreational water activities, such as swimming and kayaking, prosecutors noted in announcing the sentence against beef cattle farmer Michael Alexander Crowell and his Crowell Farms Inc.
Crowell and his farm pleaded guilty in November to one count of criminal violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger on Thursday ordered Crowell to serve the six months of house arrest during a three-year probation term and to pay $10,000 in fines. Crowell Farms was ordered to pay an additional $40,000 in fines, offset by any fines paid to the state, and to serve three years probation during which it must abide by an environmental compliance program
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Crowell Farms has more than 150 beef cows and 200 acres of agricultural fields.
According to court records, Michael Crowell installed bypasses at the farm’s waste lagoons, which were discharging liquid animal waste into a tributary of the French Broad River in late 2015. Crowell Farms did not have a permit to discharge liquid waste into the water, and was permitted only to discharge the waste to an on-site land application system, prosecutors said.
Michael Crowell installed the bypasses himself, because he had trouble managing Crowell Farms’ waste management system, according to court records. He previously told inspectors he was aware that he had done “the wrong thing,” records show. State inspectors further found that Crowell Farms did not own the proper land application equipment.