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E-M:/ CAFO Waste Runoff Season!!



Beautiful day, the temperature noticeably rising as you stroll outside, the snow and ice melting quickly: In other words, perfect conditions for the poor practices of CAFOs state wide to show up in animal wastes washing into waterways downstream from fields and facilities.  So here’s a chance to test your skill at detecting the damage to drains, streams and rivers that may be filling up with more than just the spring run off.


If you want to see if a CAFO is near you, you can check a list of the CAFOs that have been identified by the DEQ so far (with the exception of those that have been issued individual NPDES permits) at:


This list is not complete, so if you know of a facility near you that may be a CAFO but isn’t on the list, this is a good time to pass along that information to the DEQ.  Contact Ronda Wuycheck (WUYCHECR@michigan.org) or Mike Bitondo (BITONDOM@michigan.org) with that info.


What are you looking for?  An excellent source of the kinds of problems you may see is the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) website, www.nocafos.org .  Throughout the site you’ll see examples of problems, but you can start with the http://www.nocafos.org/pictures.htm to get an idea of common problems.  The News and Violations site (http://www.nocafos.org/news.htm ) shows additional examples of problems. 


Where to look?  Start with the obvious – for field run off, if you saw wastes spread on the snow, check drains and streams around that field where the waterway crosses a public road (it is illegal to trespass onto private property – but it is legal to look and photograph issues of concern). 


Does the water look dirty (check the ECCSCM photos for comparison)?  Contaminated water is often turbid (meaning full of sediment), discolored, sometimes even in the dead of winter is growing algae, and can smell bad.  Sometimes contaminated water is clear and doesn’t smell bad, but there may be dead fish or other aquatic critters like snails.   


If you find a site you think could be a problem, precisely record the location – if you have a GPS unit, wonderful, if not, write down either an address (if available) or find the closest intersection and approximate the distance and direction from that location (telling an enforcement officer “its on Clark Road in Clinton County” is almost useless – they need to be able to use their time effectively and efficiently).  Record your observations and if possible snap a few photos of the site. If you think you can tell where the waste is coming from that is contaminating the waterway, try to record photos of that as well. 


Then, contact the DEQ staff person in your region to make a formal complaint.  Go to  http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-wb-nps-staff-map.pdf  which is a map of the DEQ District Staff who have the job of enforcing non-point pollution problems – a name is listed in each county – to find the contact information for that person go to: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313_3682_3714-13151--,00.html . Under the District Staff you’ll both phone numbers and emails for contacts.  Remember, these folks have a lot on their plates, but it is their job to investigate complaints.  Give as much detail as you can – if the situation looks really bad – lots of contamination, very strong odor, dead fish – be sure to let them know you think it may be an emergency. 


Sierra Club is also eager to know about any problems you find.  Send us a note or give a call – contact Lynn Henning at lynn.henning@sierraclub.org , Rita Jack at rita.jack@sierraclub.org, or me at anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org if you have questions or are reporting a problem.  The best way to assure that pollution from CAFOs is stopped is to assure that every spill, discharge, etc., is reported and fixed, and that every CAFO follows the law.


Anne Woiwode


Anne Woiwode, Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372, fax 517-484-3108  www.michigan.sierraclub.org