Augusta, Ga., superior court dismisses claims that biosolids caused cow deaths
The Superior Court of Richmond County, GA in nearby Augusta dismissed claims filed by McElmurray Farm that land-applied biosolids caused the deaths of dairy cows in the 1990s.
March 3, 2004 -- The Superior Court of Richmond County, GA in nearby Augusta dismissed claims filed by McElmurray Farm that land-applied biosolids caused the deaths of dairy cows in the 1990s.
The plaintiffs filed an original compliant on 2-20-01 alleging 12 causes of action seeking $15 million in damages. The Court decision cited 15 main reasons that the plaintiffs failed to prove during the legal proceedings, including insufficient evidence based on speculation or conjecture.
The following are the 15 main bases for the Court's summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the City of Augusta, GA:
* Plaintiff's experts were unable to point to any scientific studies that the situation in the McElmurray cows results in an immune system deficiency.
* Research reports relied upon by both parties indicate that cows with similar findings with regard to heavy metals in their tissues as found in the McElmurray cows did not have any adverse health effects.
* Plaintiff experts could not identify one specific cow that allegedly died as a result of immune system deficiency brought on by sludge applications.
* Plaintiff's analysis of liver and kidney tissues of the cows that died never established a cause of death and that any potential impact was based on speculation.
* Necropsies performed indicate that normal cow diseases occur on all dairy farms and were found to be the contributing cause of death.
* Some necropsies performed on the McElmurray cows found that a few were infected with a common cow disease known as Johne's disease and was listed as a contributing cause of death in the pathology report.
* Johne's disease has no cure and is a problem on all dairy farms resulting in significant losses.
* Johne's Disease has been identified in many instances in the veterinary records of the McElmurray herd.
* Control blood samples taken at five different dairy farms that did not receive sewage sludge were analyzed for heavy metals and were found to be consistent and similar to data from the McElmurray farm, even though none of the control cows were ever exposed to sewage sludge.
* Plaintiffs were also applying commercial fertilizer to their farmland and it was complete speculation as to the source of metals in plaintiffs' crops and cows in 1998 and beyond.
* Home-grown crops grown on the plaintiff's sludge-amended land were not the only source of feed in their cows' diets and were found to contain mineral supplementation, including heavy metals.
* Metals to which the plaintiff's cows have been allegedly exposed from sewage sludge are substances which all dairy cows are exposed to in their diet.
* Plaintiff's experts did not understand and could not explain how the combination of metals and other ingredients of sewage sludge allegedly interacted to the detriment of the health of the cows on the McElmurray farm.
* Plaintiffs could not identify any exceedances of the type III risk reduction standard under the Georgia HRSA regulations for nonresidential land for any of the metals plaintiffs claim caused harm to their cows.
* Exceedances of alleged background levels do not equate to damage to the land or indicate that the land cannot be safely used to grow crops for cow feed.
The Court ruled that the City of Augusta, GA was entitled to a summary judgment in its favor on the issue of alleged health problems in plaintiffs dairy herd, including any damages for deceased cows, excessive veterinarian costs, lost milk production, excessive culling, and all future such damages.
Augusta GA 2-11-04 Court Order and Judgment: http://biosolids.policy.net/relatives/27561.pdf