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E-M:/ Sierra Club Release - Moratorium Now on Animal Factories

Enviro-Mich message from "Daniel Farough" <daniel.farough@sierraclub.org>

News From The Sierra Club

For Immediate Release				  Contact:
Tuesday, April 23, 2002				  Anne Woiwode Sierra Club 517-484-2372
							  Dan Farough 517-484-2372 / 517-214-0741


Coalition of Farmers, Faith and Sierra Club Say,
“No New Animal Factories in MI Until Public Protected.”

LANSING, MI:  Family farmers, the Sierra Club and faith groups gathered at
the State Capitol today to demand a moratorium on any new or expanding
animal factories in Michigan until adequate safeguards are in place to
protect the public health and environment.  The members of about half a
dozen community groups gave testimonials on the devastating impact these
operations are having on their communities, then picketed the new
headquarters for the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of
Agriculture.  While Michigan agreed in January to follow federal law by
implementing a water permit, the permit is months from completion but new
and expanded animal factories are being built today without regulatory
oversight. The Sierra Club also launched radio ads around the State today
calling for no new or expanded animal factories in Michigan until adequate
regulations are in place.

“We need a moratorium on animal factories until the state can get a handle
on the pollution and public health problems and put adequate safeguards in
place,” said Lynn Henning, a farmer from outside Hudson.  “Russ Harding’s
policies have turned my community into pollution nightmare,” Henning said of
the Department of Environmental Quality Director Russ Harding.  The Hudson
area is the site of nine mega-dairies, all of which have been cited for
water pollution violations in the last two years.  Michigan has more than
200 large-scale animal factories, according to state officials, and an
unknown number of new facilities are under currently proposed or under
construction.  Animal Factories concentrate thousand and sometimes millions
of animals in football sized barns and produce as much waste as cities, but
without the pollution controls municipalities employ.  Waste is frequently
stored in open lagoons and sprayed on fields at rates far above what can be
absorbed.  This practice has caused fish kills, made lakes and rivers unsafe
for human contact and threatened drinking water sources. Anti-biotic
resistant bacteria from animal factories have been documented in food and
found downstream of animal factories in other states.  Additionally, the
waste poisons the air with toxins, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.
Many long time farm community residents have found it impossible to live
next to these facilities, some are forced to use oxygen to allow them to
breathe while others have abandoned their houses because of unbearable
conditions and an inability to sell.

In January, as a result of pressure from environmental groups and the US
Environmental Protection Agency, DEQ Director Harding ended a multiple year
defiance of federal law by agreeing to require permits for animal factories,
and promised to begin proactive inspections of existing facilities to check
for environmental violations. While applauding the state’s change of heart,
Sierra Club’s Anne Woiwode says that new and expanding animal factories are
under construction or proposed in Michigan today with no regulatory
oversight and without environmental standards or safeguards.  “State
officials at last have agreed that animal factories in Michigan must obey
the law, but have left the barn door wide open while the needed regulations
are being drafted,” said Woiwode. “Director Harding must direct all new and
expanding facilities to wait until the regulations are in place before any
new facilities can be built.”

In addition, the promised inspections have not yet begun, and it is unclear
whether pending budget cuts and early retirement will undermine these
promises.  A working group convened by DEQ to draft the permit also has
excluded the citizen groups that forced the state’s compliance, and is
overwhelmingly dominated by industry interests, offering little promise that
the permit will address concerns.  “No other Michigan community should have
to go through the hell we have experienced from animal factories,” said
Henning. “A moratorium and the promised inspection program will be critical
first steps for this administration to prove they are taking the law

Groups came from Muskegon, Lenawee, Ionia, Kent, Kalamazoo, and other
counties to tell their story on the Capitol steps.  “We came here to tell
our stories because no one seems to be listening at the DEQ, said Jim
Patrick, a long time farmer in Ionia County who is fighting a 2.5 million
chicken animal factory.  “We have shallow wells and can’t sustain this level
of waste.  The State has to start listening.  Our homes are on the line.”

The Sierra Club is running radio ads this week in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo,
Lansing and Hillsdale to warn communities of the public health and
environmental dangers of animal factories and urge people to contact the DEQ
to place a moratorium on any new or expanding animal factories.


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