updated 6/28/2004 11:55:20 AM ET 2004-06-28T15:55:20

Improper storage rather than sabotage or ecoterrorism caused a toxic compound to sicken and kill several dairy cows near here, investigators have determined.

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“Our investigation has determined there was no crime involved,” FBI agent Roberta A. Burroughs said Sunday. “It looks like there was some material that was stored in the barn, corroded through (its container) and probably dripped down on the cows.”

With that determination, the Joint Terrorism Task Force of local, state and federal agencies was set to close the case on the poisoning of cows at the dairy farm of John Koopman near Enumclaw, about 35 miles southeast of Seattle, she said.

Koopman, who previously told reporters he knew of no chemicals on his property that might have caused the poisoning, said Sunday the situation was overly dramatized in news reports.

“It’s been real traumatic. My life has just been turned upside down,” he said. “The media blew this thing up. The feds were just doing their job.”

Koopman said he discovered a reddish-black substance was causing blisters and burns on the backs of 10 cows while milking on June 6.

No milk reached food supply
Three died, the other seven were sickened, Koopman dumped tens of thousands of gallons of milk and a voluntary hold was placed temporarily on milk from his other 330 cows.

Last week Food and Drug Administration scientists found the substance was “a strong oxidizing chromium compound” and determined that milk from Koopman’s cows was free from risk to the public.

Investigators would not specify the substance, but a federal source told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer it contained chromium 6, which is used by heavy industrial and pharmaceutical companies in highly corrosive and cancer-causing chemical compounds.

No milk from the poisoned cows reached the food supply.

Initially there was concern that the cow sickenings might be linked to a labor dispute that including a nine-month lockout involving WestFarm Foods, a dairy cooperative of which Koopman is a board member.

The Environmental Protection Agency was still working on the case, including cleanup, disposal of the toxic material and preservation of samples for further FDA testing, Burroughs said.

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