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E-M:/ liquid manure a pollutant on tiled fields

                                                      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
                                                                        Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan 
2-Year Water Monitoring Project
Documents Liquid Manure Pollution
Through Field Drainage Tiles

A 2-year water monitoring project at sites near Confined Animal Feeding Operations in Hillsdale and Lenawee Counties documented severe water quality concerns in several stream stretches where liquid manure was applied. 

During 2001-2003, the volunteer monitoring project collected a total of 430 water samples at 79 sites.  Conducted by Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) and funded by a Community Action grant from Sierra Club, the project sampled surface water for E. coli bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen.  For the Final Report on the ECCSCM Monitoring Project and Total Data in Excel, see www.nocafos.org/finalreport.htm

In the River Raisin Watershed, Bear Creek and its tributaries Henning Drain and Rice Lake Drain, showed the most frequent contamination.  In the Bean/Tiffin Watershed, where the largest CAFOs are located, at least three stream stretches tested regularly showed serious contamination – Lime Creek Inlets to Lime Lake, Medina Drain, and Durfee Creek.

Liquid Manure and Tile Discharges
The ECCSCM project was important in bringing to public attention the serious problem of liquid manure discharges through field drainage tiles to streams.  During the Christmas holiday, 2003, after liquid manure application at many locations, 10 of 12 ECCSCM water samples taken December 29, 2003, tested at bacteria levels Too Numerous To Count (TNTC).  Four of those sites were field tile outlets flowing to Lime Lake Inlet from fields where the largest dairy CAFO had applied liquid manure.  Lime Lake Inlet sites tested TNTC eight times during the project, and exceeded the E. coli standard of 1,000/100 ml more than 30 times.  

Because CAFO waste is liquefied, it can reach field tiles without rainfall.  ECCSCM monitoring found contaminated liquid discharging through tiles even in dry weather.

One conclusion from the project is that, on tile-drained fields in particular, liquefied manure is a major pollutant.  Nearly 100% of manure-application fields in Michigan are tile-drained, according to a study prepared for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance program, February 2004

Total data from the ECCSCM project was submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  DEQ frequently responded to test results showing extreme contamination. With their own confirming data, the DEQ cited several CAFOs for illegal manure discharges, including multiple violations in April 2002, March 2003, and the holiday period, December 2003.  

Coordinated by Janet Kauffman and Kathy Melmoth, R.N., the ECCSCM Water Monitoring Project documented water quality violations during every month of the year, including winter, when underground tiles sometimes still flowed, or liquid manure melted off the surface of fields and entered catch-basins to drains.

Manure, also called nutrient, pollution increases algal growth and lowers Dissolved Oxygen.  With very low DO levels, below 3 mg/L, many aquatic species and fish die. Several streams in the ECCSCM project tested at persistently low DO levels. Throughout the summer of 2003, a tributary of Durfee Creek in Medina Township did not once register above 1 mg/L – dead-zone level.  

“An important question that remains and needs study,” Kauffman said, “is the consequence of chronic manure pollution. We need to protect the living streams and try to resuscitate the dead ones.” 

ECCSCM members have met with Michigan State University researchers as well as DEQ and the Michigan Department of Agriculture, to discuss alternatives to the liquid/lagoon system of waste handling at CAFOs.  “The liquid/lagoon system is basically a pump and spray system,” said Melmoth. “It’s 40 years behind the times, and uses clean groundwater that goes back on fields as contaminated liquid. That’s not a healthy cycle.”

To protect rural watersheds and drinking water sources, ECCSCM has called for an immediate prohibition of application of liquid manure to frozen ground and a phase-out of the application of liquid manure to tiled fields.  ECCSCM has also called for a moratorium on new CAFOs until drier and non-polluting waste systems are in place.  


  CONTACTS:  Coordinators, ECCSCM Water Monitoring Project
  Janet Kauffman, 517-448-4973
  Kathy Melmoth, R.N., 517-523-3307