Perhaps no one would dispute that clean water is a good thing. But disputes can certainly flare up when it comes to policy, oversight, and implementation methods and regulation, purportedly designed to achieve that good thing. Stir in a family feud, and you have the case of Growers Chemical, in which attorney Deborah Eckland is defending an insured against sweeping and wasteful investigation measures sought by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (“MDA”) at a family farm in central Minnesota. The MDA’s predicate for targeting the family farm was an “anonymous” tip from a disgruntled family member that there had been a recent, large fertilizer delivery to the farm, and a recent, large spill of that fertilizer. Neither was the case, but that did not stop the MDA or local law enforcement officials from kicking in the door at the family farm to serve a search warrant based on the “tip.”
Fast forward several months, through multiple rounds of inspections, meetings, submissions and re-submissions of site remediation Work Plans and reports to the MDA, and site testing, and there remains no evidence of the “spill.” Defending this case has required near-constant push-back against the MDA. Without such push-back, it seems, the MDA is content to require landowners and their long-time vendors to fund and execute site testing out of all proportion to any actual, substantiated concerns. To date this has involved tempering the MDA’s testing requirements with a phased, “step” process, according to which the scope of testing only grows if results from actual testing warrant it. A novel approach, unfortunately, for some regulatory enforcement arms of government.