In the first action of its kind in Maryland, state agriculture and health officials have filed suit against the owners and operators of an Anne Arundel County farm for allegedly violating the state's water pollution laws.
The action was taken against Tenny Farm Riding Stables when, after warnings from the state, the farm's owners and operators allegedly failed to adopt conservation measures to prevent soil and animal waste from running into the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The suit was filed in Anne Arundel Circuit Court against the Stonepath Development and Construction Corp., the owners of the property, and Thomas and Maxine Tenny, who lease the farm from Stonepath and raise cattle and horses there.
The suit asks the court to order the parties to adopt conservation measures recommended by the state "and any other steps necessary to reduce and control . . . transport of manure and other waste" into state waters. In addition, the suit asks for a fine of up to $10,000 for each day soil and wastes are discharged from the 168-acre farm into state waters.
"This land developer and the Tennys are giving farmers a bad name by refusing to adopt simple and effective conservation practices farmers are now adopting across the state," Agriculture Secretary Wayne A. Cawley Jr. said. "Stonepath Development and Construction Corp. and the Tennys have refused our help, which came in the form of a fully developed conservation plan for the farm. So we must now turn to the courts for help."
An attorney for the Rockville-based Stonepath Corp. did not return a reporter's phone call. Repeated attempts to reach the Tennys at the farm in Pasadena were unsuccessful.
Assistant Attorney General Jean K. Shaffer, counsel for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the suit against Stonepath and the Tennys was the first in the state alleging general water pollution violations from a farm.
In the past, Shaffer said, complaints against farmers have alleged violations from specific points on a farm, such as a storage facility.
For more than two years, according to the suit, Stonepath and the Tennys have allowed over-grazing and destruction of grass that covered the farm's fields and yards. Grass is essential to prevent waste-laden soil from running off the farm and into tributaries of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay.
"This pollution from Tenny Farm causes unreasonable harm to the fin fish and the shellfish of the Chesapeake Bay," the suit says, and ". . . interferes with the use and enjoyment of those waters by the citizens of Maryland."
State officials have worked with Stonepath and the Tennys for more than a year to correct the water pollution violations, according to the suit, efforts that included the preparation of the soil conservation plan at state expense.
Assistant Attorney General Craig A. Nielsen, counsel for the state Agriculture Department, said that officials from the agriculture and health departments have corresponded or met with the Tennys and Stonepath representatives several times in the last year to discuss the alleged violations.
Nielsen said officials told the Tennys and Stonepath about a state program that could reimburse them 87.5 percent of the cost of implementing conservation programs.
"That could have been done with this farm," Nielsen said, "but nothing was done."