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E-M:/ Stench and CAFOs: Destroying rural life



The Detroit News ran a front page story yesterday about what no doubt sounds like a really cute sort of idea to those who do not actually deal with the stench of animal factories on a regular basis: the Ottawa County agricultural smells scratch and sniff brochure: http://www.detnews.com/2003/metro/0308/24/index.htm


Timing is everything, I suppose – no doubt at the very moment this fluff piece story was being written, the neighbors of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Lenawee County lived through one of the most outrageous, health threatening experiences of air pollution from CAFOs that I have heard of anywhere in Michigan.  Thank GOODNESS, when made aware of just how dangerous it way, the DEQ leadership broke through what has been a stalemate for more than a year between Michigan Department of Agriculture and the DEQ and got staff from both agencies out to respond and begin to try to address the problems. 


How bad was it?  Let me give you a snippet from a report sent to the agencies by Kathy Melmoth, a Registered Nurse who has worked as a Public Health Nurse, and lives in the area: 



I would like to inform you of health impacts to neighbors from this week's liquid manure application from Hartland Farms and Vreba-Hoff 2. As a Registered Nurse, a former Public Health Nurse, I'm deeply concerned about the suffering of people in the vicinity of these CAFOs

 The stench and air pollution affecting Hart's neighbors on Beecher and Hughes Hwy. (Hudson Twp, Lenawee Co) have been occurring since August 13 but became acute on August 19. On the 19th, several people, myself included, drove down Beecher Rd. on our way to Adrian and witnessed smog-like conditions of dust in the air from Hughes Hwy. to Morey Rd. (Clayton) and on Cadmus to Posey Lake Rd. The stench made it difficult to breathe and windows had to be closed even while driving.

At least one person had to see a doctor for breathing difficulties related to the odors/fumes/particulate in the air from the liquid manure.  Others reported headache, cough, burning eyes, nausea, and diarrhea. There are elderly and sick individuals on this road and in the area around the liquid manure applications. One individual has a newly diagnosed, serious respiratory condition requiring oxygen. Two other elderly people had to leave their home to get away form the stench, a mother wouldn't let her child outside, another neighbor couldn't go to the back of his property to his pond for relief from the heat as the stench was too bad. We had temperatures in the high 80's and low 90's with high humidity and a high heat index. The Lenawee County Health Dept. has been called and a complaint filed.

Over by Lime Lake (Wright Twp, Hillsdale County), I have witnessed incredible stench from Vreba-Hoff 2. John Klein, a resident of Lime Lake, tried to file several odor complaints, one as recently as Monday the 18th. He called Rob Macleod from the MDEQ Air Quality Division in Jackson, Kim from MDA Environmental Stewardship, and Dennis Armbruster of MDEQ. All deny jurisdiction.

We need a plan to stop this kind of air pollution from these agricultural operations. These events go on for days, stop for awhile and then resume. One individual told me around Lime Lake that they experience this stench as much as 50% of the time. Many residents do not have air conditioning and closing all windows and doors with a high heat index and vulnerable populations, some homebound, is very dangerous, as this last week has shown. There is also the issue of chronic exposure to gases from lagoons and land applications. Two people on Beecher Rd. have been diagnosed by an expert MD with neurological effects of chronic hydrogen sulfide exposure. More people should be tested but cannot afford the $1500 to do so. Nobody is taking responsibility for protecting the public health from these dangerous, chronic and sometimes acute emissions. Not the Department of Community Health, MDA or DEQ.

I understand DEQ did send someone to investigate the air quality around Hartland Farms yesterday, (the 21). Thank you for responding. But we need an end to these emissions. No farm operation has the right to jeopardize public health. We also need a plan to contact those in charge so they can respond quickly, not in 7 days as the "Right to Farm Act" states.



After the DEQ and MDA staff went out on Thursday evening to Hartland Farms, the waste (which was the sludge from the bottom of the manure lagoon which is by far worse than even the more liquid manure wastes normally decanted onto fields) which had been spread for days on the same fields without incorporation into the soil, was finally turned under.  The reports today are that now the smell is less, however the flies, which are vectors for all sorts of disease, are unbelievable.


Yep, the good old smells of the country.  Maybe the folks in Lenawee County can get the Ottawa County scratch and sniff smell put into an aerosol can and use it as a room freshener to hide the real smells of their community.


Anne Woiwode



Anne Woiwode, Director

Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

109 East Grand River Avenue,  Lansing, MI  48906

ph: 517-484-2372 fx: 517-484-3108 e: anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org

website:  http://michigan.sierraclub.org