We were trying to do things right. We're sorry about this, and we're doing what we can to make it right. —Keith Winterton
ROOSEVELT — A Roosevelt trucking company owned in part by a Duchesne County commissioner has agreed to pay a fine for spilling an unknown amount of cow manure into a stream.
The $2,039 fine for Winterton Trucking is the subject of a public comment period set to expire later this month. It stems from a June 5 incident that environmental regulators stumbled across entirely by chance.
"Our district engineer just happened to be at (a gas station) investigating another matter when he happened to see the incident unfolding," said Walt Baker, director of the state Division of Water Quality.
"A truck from Winterton Trucking was washing out its trailer of manure into a tributary to Dry Gulch Creek," Baker said. "It's a violation of the Utah Water Quality Act."
Duchesne County Commissioner Ron Winterton owns Winterton Trucking with his brothers and their father. He also owns the property along the stream where the company had established a makeshift clean-out area for its trucks, complete with a holding pond for the manure-laden water, according to his father, Keith Winterton.
Keith Winterton said the holding pond was full on June 5 and overflowed when a livestock trailer was being cleaned out, spilling liquid cow manure into the nearby stream.
"We were trying to do things right," he said. "We're sorry about this, and we're doing what we can to make it right."
State regulators don't believe Keith Winterton or his sons were directly involved in causing the spill. They did know, however, about their company's trailer cleaning practices, Baker said.
"Apparently, this had been going on 10 to 12 times over the course of the year," he said.
A state inspection report shows the water in the "ephemeral and intermittent stream" was discolored and "full of manure solids." Regulators said as many as 200 minnows were dead in the foul-smelling water, and up to 10 cubic yards of manure was found along the stream bank.
The Wintertons immediately worked with regulators on a plan to clean up the stream, which drains into Dry Gulch Creek before that waterway flows into the Green River. The site had been remediated when regulators made a return visit on June 27, according to the inspection report.
The manure-holding pond was leveled and cleaned up, Keith Winterton said, and his son put up a fence on his property to restrict access to the stream.
"He doesn't want to be liable for the actions of others," Keith Winterton said.
He said the company, which hauls livestock all over the West, now cleans out its livestock trailers with shovels, unless there is a properly permitted washout station available.
"We've gone to a dry system," Winterton said.
Baker praised the Wintertons for their willingness to address the problem and work with environmental regulators.
"We've been pleased that this hasn't been an acrimonious negotiation," the division director said. "They've taken responsibility for their actions. Now we're just trying to settle on a penalty and move forward."
Public comments on the draft settlement agreement can be submitted to: Don Hall, P.O. Box 144870, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4870 or by email to email@example.com. The deadline is Jan. 31.