Ranchers Raise Alarm: Polluted Stormwater Runoff from Rapid City Landfill Likely Flowing into Rapid Creek

Lawyers at Fox Rothschild ask state regulators to deny changes to city’s landfill permit 

Rapid City, S.D. – Lawyers representing South Dakota ranchers Ross and Fern Johnson in their ongoing battle with the Rapid City Landfill say polluted stormwater runoff from the landfill likely is finding its way into Rapid Creek. And they say changes the city seeks to make at the landfill will only make matters worse. 

“This is no longer a Ross and Fern Johnson problem but a problem for everyone in Rapid City,” says attorney Kathleen Barrow of the Fox Rothschild law firm, who along with attorney David Crooks represents the Johnsons in a lawsuit they filed against the city and the landfill in March.  

The lawsuit claims polluted stormwater and debris from the landfill are harming their property. “That creek is a source of drinking water for Rapid City residents,” Ms. Barrow says. “And if polluted runoff is making its way to the creek, it is also endangering the broader public.” 

The lawyers are asking regulators at the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources to deny the city of Rapid City’s request to alter the existing landfill permit. The city wants to vary the development plan for the landfill, which would involve using areas outside of an established order for doing so. 

In her filing with state regulators, Ms. Barrow argues such an approach will worsen the existing stormwater runoff problem. She says the city’s own engineering studies indicate such water is draining into a tributary that flows into Rapid Creek.  

The lawyers want to do testing to confirm the path the water is flowing once it leaves the landfill property. Testing already has shown high levels of cancer-causing PFAS, commonly known as forever chemicals, in the soil on the Johnson’s property as a result of the landfill runoff.  

“If there is PFAS out there in the soil, then it’s highly likely it’s running into that tributary and into the creek,” Ms. Barrow says. “The idea of expanding the landfill or developing things out of order out there without figuring out what’s actually going on should give us all pause.” 

The petition deadline for filings on the issue with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources is May 26. The underlying legal case is Ross Johnson and Fern Johnson v. City of Rapid City, and the Rapid City Landfill, No. 51CIV23-000257 in the 7th Judicial District, Pennington County, South Dakota.       

Fox Rothschild has grown to a 950-lawyer national law firm with 27 offices focusing on client service and responsiveness and attracting bright and creative lawyers who know how to deliver. More information at foxrothschild.com.  


Media Contact: 

Mark Annick 



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