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E-M:/ Sierra Club notifies Largest Animal Factories in MI of need for Water Permits

Enviro-Mich message from "Anne Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org>

>From the Sierra Club

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE		Contact: Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372 or
August 22, 2001					Aaron Isherwood 415-977-5680


The Sierra Club today sent letters to ninety-two (92) of Michigan’s largest
animal factories “strongly recommending” that they apply for water quality
permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ),
otherwise they may be at risk for fines and enforcement action for
violations of the Clean Water Act.  The Sierra Club mailed the informational
letters to twenty-seven (27) of Michigan’s largest dairies and sixty-five
(65) of Michigan’s largest swine animal factories that the organization
believes may be required to obtain water quality permits under state and/or
federal pollution laws.

Water pollution from animal factories poses enormous health and
environmental risks in Michigan, ranging from E coli bacteria contamination
of swimming and drinking waters to fish kills.  Animal factories are found
throughout the rural areas of the southern half of Michigan’s Lower
Peninsula, and in the southwestern Upper Peninsula.  Only five concentrated
animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Michigan have applied for water quality
permits to date, according to MDEQ, and the State is refusing to process any
of those permit applications.

“The Engler Administration is leaving large scale livestock operations
vulnerable to lawsuits by refusing to inform them that they may be required
to obtain water quality permits in order to operate legally,” according to
Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter Director.  “We suspect
the vast majority of concentrated animal feeding operations will try to obey
the law if they are informed of the requirements, and Sierra Club wishes to
give them every opportunity to come into compliance voluntarily with
Michigan and federal environmental laws.”

	The 27 dairy facilities receiving letters from Sierra Club constitute less
than 1% of dairy cattle operations in Michigan, yet include almost 13% of
the state’s dairy cows, and produce the equivalent in animal sewage waste to
almost 800,000 people. Waste from concentrated animal feeding operations is
often significantly more dangerous than human sewage, yet Michigan is
refusing to properly regulate these facilities. Woiwode said, “Currently,
the Engler Administration’s position is that these massive facilities should
not be regulated like other polluting industries.  Not only is this in
conflict with the law, it is in conflict with common sense and concern for
the well-being of Michigan’s citizens.”  (No comparable data are available
at this time for hog operations.)

The Sierra Club letter, signed by Woiwode and Sierra Club Staff Attorney
Aaron Isherwood, explains that CAFOs are required by law to apply for
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits in order to
begin construction, to begin operation or to continue in operation if
already functioning.  “As a CAFO which has not obtained an NPDES permit from
the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, you and the facility are
either already violating or at risk of violating the federal Clean Water
Act,” according to the Sierra Club’s letter.

The Sierra Club letter also points out that enforcement of the law can be
initiated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the US
Environmental Protection Agency, or “by a citizen or organization such as
the Sierra Club, filing suit under the citizen suit provisions of the
federal Clean Water Act.” An illegally operating CAFO can be subject to
court ordered fines of up to $27,500 per day of violation.

The Sierra Club is a national environmental organization with 19,000 members
in Michigan, dedicated to exploring, enjoying and protecting the earth’s
air, land and water.  Sierra Club has brought citizen’s lawsuits against two
dairy concentrated animal feeding operations in Michigan, which are
currently pending in federal court.  In addition, Sierra Club is part of a
petition to the US Environmental Protection Agency seeking withdrawal of
Michigan’s delegated authority under the Clean Water Act based on failure to
properly regulate concentrated animal feeding operations.

# # # # # # #

Anne Woiwode, Staff Director
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter
109 East Grand River Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48906
517-484-2372; fax 517-484-3108

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