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E-M:/ High Bacteria in Streams Adjacent to CAFOs

July 17, 2002
                                                                   Contact: Janet Kauffman 517-448-4973
                                                                   Monitoring Project Coordinator, ECCSCM  

Water Monitoring Shows Bacteria Problems
In Streams Adjacent to Industrial Dairies
In Headwaters of Raisin and Maumee Watersheds

Test results from a year-long project monitoring the drains and streams adjacent to industrial dairies in the Hudson, MI area, show that almost half the samples did not meet the Michigan water quality standard for E. coli bacteria.  The total data published by Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) indicate several sites with extremely high spikes in bacteria during the sampling period, the highest more than 150 times the bacteria level acceptable for partial body contact (like wading). High bacteria levels are a risk to human health and one strain of E. coli, 0157:H7, can be deadly.    

The Great Lakes Conservation Task Force, a bi-partisan committee of the Michigan Senate, with Sen. Ken Sikkema, chair, and Sen. Bev Hammerstrom vice-chair, recently issued its Final Report, including a recommendation for water monitoring adjacent to Confined Animal Feed Operations – industrial-size livestock facilities.  The ECCSCM volunteer project is one of the few in the state that routinely monitors streams in the vicinity of CAFOs.

The 9 industrial dairies in the Hudson area have all had water quality violations.  Since February 2000, the Department of Environmental Quality has documented 18 illegal discharges of silage or manure from the dairies.  Four facilities with multiple violations are currently under investigation by the Enforcement Unit of the DEQ.

ECCSCM makes its data available to DEQ, EPA, the Hillsdale and Lenawee County Health Departments, and the public.  

The ECCSCM volunteer monitoring project, funded by a grant from the Sierra Club, has sampled more than 30 different sites, some repeatedly, for E. coli and for Dissolved Oxygen.  67 of the 140 samples tested for E. coli bacteria exceeded 1,000/100 ml, the level considered safe for partial body contact.  The certified lab in Jackson, MI, which does the E. coli testing, found17 of the 67 samples Too Numerous To Count (TNTC).  

Of the measurable counts, Lime Lake Inlet East in Hillsdale County, in the Bean/Tiffin/Maumee Watershed, tested the highest, at 166,320/100 ml on April 2.  

Bear Creek at Beecher Road in Lenawee County, in the River Raisin Watershed, has tested high in 6 out of 7 samples, with the highest levels May 15 (TNTC) and July 9 (20,790).

Six of the 11 sites sampled on July 9 tested above10,000/100 ml – 10 times the recommended level.  “Our streams are being degraded, and it’s happening fast,” said Janet Kauffman, Monitoring Project Coordinator.  “We’ve got as much untreated waste as the city of Toledo, right here.  This is liquid waste, and it flows through soils and downstream.”  

The dairy CAFOs liquefy animal waste.  Most illegal discharges have been through field drainage tiles to adjacent streams.  

Because of hydrologic connections between surface waters and groundwater, ECCSCM recently requested free well water testing by the Lenawee and Hillsdale County health departments for residents within 1 mile of CAFOs – a service provided by several Ohio county health departments.

Dissolved Oxygen (DO), a requirement of fish and other aquatic species, has also been a concern near CAFOs.  Excess and decomposing organic matter lowers DO.  The Michigan water standard is 5 mg/L or higher for healthy aquatic life.  If the DO falls below 3 mg/L, fish usually die.

The ECCSCM monitoring found DO levels as low as 0.4 mg/L at several sites.  All of the samples taken May through July in Durfee Creek Extension on Dillon Hwy, Lenawee County, were below the standard for Dissolved Oxygen.  Four of the samples registered below 3 mg/L.

For total sampling data by site, go to eccscm.org and follow link to More Information on Hudson Area Animal Factories.