From the Consumer's Union website
December 3, 1998 Contact:
Reggie James or Rafael Ayuso
Consumer Union Southwest Office
Uncontrolled Factory Farm Manure Causes Pollution and
Threatens Health, According to Comprehensive New Report
AUSTIN, TX - The unchecked growth of factory farms-and
their resulting mountains of untreated livestock manure-are fouling drinking
water and causing a public health risk in Texas and at least 29 other states
according to a new report released today.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the
Clean Water Network on Thursday released the report America's Animal
How States Fail to Prevent Pollution from Livestock
The report details how corporate-owned "factory" farms
in these states are poisoning drinking water supplies by fouling rivers,
lakes, streams and underground aquifers. Moreover, these mountains of manure
are releasing toxic fumes into the air, making them a major source of air
pollution in rural areas. In most states, according to the report, polluters
face minimal regulation and lax enforcement of existing laws.
Facing a general reluctance at the state government
level to tackle the farm waste problem, citizens in Colorado and South
Dakota passed ballot initiatives this year to hold factory farms accountable
for the pollution they cause. The issue also played a major role in at least
two Congressional races and several local elections.
In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a draft strategy to
better regulate factory farm waste. As part of the government's practice of
collecting public comment, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Senator
Tom Harkin (D-IA) will join senior EPA officials in Des Moines for a public
hearing on the issue December 4. EPA officials will hold a similar public
hearing in Ft. Worth, Texas on December 10.
"The scale of the problem is enormous," says Robin
Marks, NRDC senior resource specialist and a principal author of the report.
"Factory farms are producing stadiums-full of manure every day, and most
simply let this waste pollute drinking water supplies. It's outrageous."
In Texas, manure from dairies applied to fields in
Erath County significantly contributed to the degradation of the Bosque
River, which feeds into Lake Waco. Massive new factory pig farms-with their
huge wastewater lagoons and odors-continue to spark controversy throughout
the Panhandle. Farmers and ranchers in Perryton, Spearman and elsewhere
complain that the odors and flies significantly devalue their homesteads,
while the lagoons pose a threat to the region's critical water supply.
"These animal factories like to present themselves as
the 'new' American family farm," said Reggie James of Consumers Union,
Southwest Regional Office, which assisted with research
on Texas factory farming. "They come into the state promising economic
growth, and are welcomed with taxpayer-subsidies. But this isn't Farmer
Jones we're talking about with his ties to the community.. Rather, they're
factory farms run by remote corporations."
The NRDC / Clean Water Network documented-for the first
time in one report-how little the states do to protect their citizens from
factory farm pollution. Most states have few regulations, and current laws
are poorly enforced. At the same time, federal rules do little to fill in
major loopholes left by the states. The result is unchecked pollution
leading to contaminated well water, fish kills, sickness from toxic gases in
the air, and plummeting property values for neighboring land owners.
As large corporate entities have come to dominate the
nation's farm landscape (10 corporations produce 92 percent of the nation's
poultry), animal factories have been built that raise thousands more animals
than a family farm would raise on the same acreage. In many cases, pollution
problems occur when shopping mall-size storage "lagoons," filled with
manure, overflow in heavy rains or leak into groundwater. In other cases
manure, over-applied to crops as fertilizer, runs off saturated fields into
rivers or lakes.
America's Animal Factories offers several
recommendations to control factory farm pollution. They include:
Issuing a moratorium on Clean Water Act permits for new
and expanding animal factories;
Allowing local residents to participate fully in
decisions allowing new factory farms in their communities;
Banning open-air cesspools for factories;
Banning the spraying of manure and urine;
Eliminating manure run-off from land;
Protecting the nation's water supplies from poultry
manure and regulating chicken factories under the Clean Water Act;
Making corporate factory farm owners responsible for
bearing the cost of waste disposal and cleanup.
The entire report is available at the Natural Resources
Defense Council's website at
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