Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Danger in Our Water Supply

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Bridget Huber reports in The American Prospect:

This investigation was conducted by FairWarning ( a Los Angeles-based nonprofit investigative news organization focused on public health and safety issues.

As factory farms take over more and more of the nation’s livestock production, a major environmental threat has emerged: Pollution from the waste produced by the immense crush of animals.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that America’s livestock create three times as much excreta as the human population. By the agency’s reckoning, a dairy farm with 2,500 cows—which is large, but not exceptional—can generate as much waste as the people in a city the size of Miami.

Yet unlike human waste, which often receives sophisticated treatment, animal waste commonly goes untreated. It is typically held in underground pits or vast manure lagoons, and then spread on cropland as fertilizer. It’s been this way for decades, but worries have grown along with the number and size of factory farms. When storms strike, the overflows can be huge, like a 1995 North Carolina swine manure spill that sent 25 million gallons of waste into a river. Just last month, a Minnesota dairy farm spilled up to 1 million gallons of manure, fouling two nearby trout streams. More routinely, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported, large farms generate more manure than they can handle, so they spread too much on nearby fields. From there, the material—which the EPA says often contains hormones, pathogens and toxic metals—can run off and contaminate streams, rivers, and wells.

Under the Clean Water Act, industrial operations like factories and sewage treatment plants that discharge waste through pipes are considered “point sources” of pollution. They are required to get a permit that sets limits on pollution and, in many cases, imposes a water-testing regime.

For massive livestock farms—what the government calls concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs—it’s a different story. Although they also are defined under the law as point sources, federal court rulings have frustrated the EPA’s efforts to regulate them. Only 45 percent of the nation’s CAFOs have discharge permits, even though the EPA estimates 75 percent of them are polluting. And even when CAFOs get permits, critics say, their performance in controlling pollution is hard to track and their permit restrictions are tough to enforce.

EPA officials, who declined to be interviewed for this story, have long worried about pollution problems from CAFOs and say they have stepped up enforcement in recent years. But the agency’s plans to regulate more large livestock farms were shot down twice by federal courts over the last decade. Then last July—amid continuing industry opposition and while regulation was a sensitive topic during the presidential campaignthe agency quietly withdrew a proposal to collect information from large livestock farms. The result is that the EPA remains largely in the dark about such basic facts as which operations are potentially the biggest polluters and where they are located.

“It’s basically the Wild West out there when it comes to CAFOs,” says Scott Edwards, an attorney for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch.

But industry groups say those who call for tighter regulation rely on outdated data and ignore evidence of the progress large livestock farms have made through improved technology and farming practices.

Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, says most of the waste in newer swine farms goes into deep pits that aren’t vulnerable to overflow the way manure lagoons are. He added that few farms endanger waterways by applying too much manure on fields. “The value of the nutrients in the manure is worth way too much for people not to want to harness it and utilize it.”

Jamie Jonker, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation, says, “Dairy farms of all sizes strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

The Nose-Burning Smell

Federal estimates vary, but the EPA believes there now are 20,000 large U.S. farms that qualify as CAFOs. That would be up more than fivefold since 1982, when

Continue reading.

If you’re wondering about whether those businesses are concerned about their impact on public health: No, they do not care in the slightest. They simply want to keep costs as low as possible, and anything that increases costs will be fought tooth and nail and cost-increasing regulations ignored when possible—and in fact ignored always if the fine for noncompliance is less than the cost of compliance.

Corporations, as persons, are sociopaths, pure and simple.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2013 at 12:35 pm

2 Responses

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  1. You want to know what else is contaminating Americas Water. Big companies drilling for Natural Gas, the gas leaks into people’s drinking water and contaminates it. People are developing illnesses linked to the chemicals in natural gas. The becomes so water so polluted you can take a match to the running faucet and light a FIRE. Check out the docu movie, GASLAND.


    30 May 2013 at 1:10 pm

  2. Often natural gas is released through “fracking,” which has been shown to contaminate water supplies. OTO natural gas companies have a lot of money so the current US government is reluctant to take steps against them. And lobbyists keep Congress well-supplied with money if they go along.

    Public financing of elections is the only hope, but we won’t do it.


    30 May 2013 at 4:42 pm

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