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ABC 4 Investigation: Is electricity killing Utah cows?

DELTA, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Is electricity threatening Utah's way of life? The cows in Millard County don't seem right. Dairy farmers say stray electrical current is damaging the health of their herds, but the Intermountain Power Project says they are not to blame.
DELTA, Utah (ABC 4 News) - “I grew up on a dairy farm. John worked on one from the time he was eleven or twelve years old. This is indeed what we know, what we love, it's where our passion is,” says Maria Nye.

An unseen force is threatening Maria Nye’s passion. She says her cows, as a herd, are not as healthy and happy as they should be. They are stressed, and that that is leading to immune problems and even premature death. Maria thinks she knows why.

“That is the power plant and we believe that the problems we are having with immune difficulties with the cows are based on stray voltage, stray current from the power plant,” says Nye.

The power plant is IPP. The Intermountain Power Project just a few miles down the road. It is a coal-fired power plant that sends millions of volts of DC electricity to Southern California.

The Nyes, along with several other dairy farms in the Delta area, have filed suit against the Intermountain Power Project, claiming that stray DC current from the plant is effecting their cows and their livelihood.

Maria really knows her cows and she notices how they act when they go to the water trough.

“A cow who is thirsty and wanting to drink, will stick her nose in a bucket of water and suck it all down you watch our cows when they go to the trough, they'll lap at the water, like touch it...touch...touch (Nye demonstrates). Okay...I think I can do this and then they’ll stick their noses in,” says Nye, adding, “A cow is twenty times more sensitive to electricity than the average person.”

Nye continues to explain how cows normally drink, pointing to a female cow who is attempting otherwise.

“Cows would usually go to the water trough and stick their nose right in and suck the water up and, that's not what she's doing,” explains Nye.

Nye says cows need to drink 30 to 40 gallons of water so they can produce milk, especially in Utah's dry climate. When their cows starting acting strange, Nye and other Delta dairy farmers had an expert come out and test for stray current. Don Zipse is an electrical engineer from Delaware who has studied stray current since 1970.

“The cows are not drinking water because there is electricity in the water,” says Zipse.

But the Intermountain Power Project argues if there is stray current on the dairy farm, it’s not coming from them.

“Based upon substantial scientific research and tests, Intermountain Power Agency management believes that our southern transmission high voltage line that goes from Millard County to Southern California does not emit stray voltage. Pure and simple, that's it," says Reed Searle, the general manager of the power agency.

Searle says IPP has done a lot of testing.

“I wish I could explain the amount of testing we have done but it is extensive,” says Searle.

He doesn't deny there could be a problem, but explains that the voltage is not coming from his plant.

“If the dairy farms in Millard County do have voltage on their farms (then) that comes from some other place or some other location or source other than ours,” says Searle.

Searle's words offer little comfort for dairy farmers like Maria Nye, who just want to see their cows, once again, healthy and happy.

“What we are really hoping for is a solution. Yes we've lost a lot of money over the years, but what we'd really like is for it to stop,” says Nye. “It would be great to have happy cows.”
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