Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Ranchers sue over alleged toxic pollution from municipal landfill

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The City of Rapid City is being sued by local cattle ranchers for, what they claim, years of pollution and the harmful effects the landfill has had on the nearby cattle ranch.

According to the lawsuit, it began in 2002 when the City of Rapid City purchased 106 acres sitting adjacent to the city’s existing landfill. Mr. Johnson’s father originally owned the 106 acres in question and sold it to the city with the written understanding that the land would provide a buffer between the landfill and the Johnson ranch land.

In the lawsuit, it’s noted there have been several instances of flooding, toxic runoff, litter, and other environmental hazards threatening the Johnsons’ ranch and cattle. In 2018, a storm caused a landfill detention pond to flood onto the Johnson’s property. Since then, there have been nearly a dozen similar cases of toxic runoff onto the couple’s land. Trash from the landfill has also fallen or been blown by the wind onto the property, and contaminated compost has been burned right up to the shared border of the properties.

“We have been pleading with the city and the landfill for years to take some steps to help protect our land, and they have not lifted a finger,” said Ms. Johnson. “What’s even worse is that we had an agreement in place to make sure something like this didn’t happen, and the city has not honored that.”

In late 2022, the Johnsons hired an independent environmental engineering company to test their water and soil. The testing revealed hazardous pollutants, including petroleum byproducts in the soil.

According to KOTA, Deputy City Attorney Carla Cushman insists there’s no merit to the Johnsons’ allegations, and that the landfill is heavily regulated.

“The landfill operates in accordance with its various permits with the state,” Cushman said. “There are lots of rules and regulations that a landfill has to meet, and we are following those rules.”

The city is expected to answer the litigation in the next few weeks.

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