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E-M:/ Dec 31 Deadline Looms for State to Submit Animal Factory Permitting Plan to EPA

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

News from
Michigan Sierra Club

For Immediate Response 			Contact: Anne Woiwode 517-484-2372
December 27, 2001

December 31 Deadline Looms For State to Submit
Animal Factory Permitting Plan to EPA:
State Closed Mouth On Whether It Will Comply

	The State of Michigan is silent on whether it will meet a US Environmental
Protection Agency’s December 31st deadline for Governor John Engler to sign
off on and submit a plan for issuing water permits to concentrated animal
feeding operations (CAFOs).  The state’s failure to comply will mean USEPA
will take the next steps toward withdrawal of the state’s authority to run
the Clean Water Act programs in Michigan.

Meanwhile, MDEQ test results for samples taken downstream of Hartland Farms,
a dairy CAFO near Hudson, in late November showed surface water
contamination levels as high as 570,000 E.Coli per milliliter, a rate 1,900
times the state’s maximum total body contact level. The results were
released today by the Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter (see related
press release) and demonstrate the failure of the state’s voluntary
compliance program for CAFOs.

	“The Governor and the heads of DEQ and MDA are playing a sick and
terrifying game with the health and well-being of Michigan residents.  It is
time for Michigan’s leaders to stop pretending that animal factories are
harmless, before people begin dying from the horrific contamination these
facilities are causing,” according to Anne Woiwode, Director of the Mackinac
(Michigan) Chapter of Sierra Club.  Sierra Club, Michigan Land Use
Institute, Michigan Environmental Council and two individuals submitted a
petition to USEPA in November 1999 asking that the state’s delegation under
the Clean Water Act be withdrawn because of its failure to regulate CAFOs.
The petition prompted the current EPA investigation of the state’s program.

Woiwode said that the Sierra Club expects, based on the Engler
Administration record, that even if the state meets the deadline, the
program proposed will fall far short of minimum requirements for protecting
drinking and recreational water quality near CAFOs in Michigan.  “Sierra
Club is eager to see the state finally come into compliance with the law,
but we have no illusions that the permitting plan the Administration might
propose will address the full extent of the problems with Michigan’s
program,” according to Woiwode.  “However, as the Hartland Farms mess
demonstrates once again it is long past time for the state to act to protect
its citizens from deadly water contamination caused by animal factories.”
Sierra Club has also brought citizen lawsuits against two CAFOs in Michigan
and given notice of intent to sue against three others based on water
quality violations.

The EPA deadline was established in a letter sent October 26th by Region 5
Administrator Thomas Skinner to Michigan DEQ Director Russell Harding. The
letter from Skinner states that discussions were ongoing between state and
federal officials on water permitting and CAFOS in Michigan.  Skinner agreed
to the state’s request for a delay until after the Michigan Farm Bureau
annual meeting, “to work to with the Michigan agricultural community on an
acceptable CAFO plan.”  The letter also says that MDEQ would promote the
proposed CAFO permitting plan at the Farm Bureau meeting. To date, state
officials have not publicly discussed the EPA’s deadline or their plans
regarding compliance with the mandate.

If the state fails to meet the December 31st deadline, the EPA letter says
that no later than January 15th the federal agency will publish and seek
public comment on their draft final report reviewing the state’s delegated
program under the Clean Water Act.  The report follows a September 2000
Interim Report, which found the state’s program to be “severely lacking.”
Release of the report and solicitation of public input would be the next
step toward withdrawing the state’s authority to run the Clean Water Act
regulatory program in Michigan.  Withdrawal of the state’s delegation would
mean all water permitting and renewals will be taken away from the state and
put under US EPA’s control.

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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