If there are any doubters out there about the
potential negative impacts of CAFOs, forward them the article below from New York.
The Watershed Center
From: Andy Willner
August 17, 2005 9:54 AM
To: Waterkeeper Alliance Members
Subject: cow manure spill
New York Times, Aug. 15, 2005
WORKERS TRYING TO CONTAIN EFFECTS OF BIG
By Michelle York
CARTHAGE, N.Y., Aug. 13 -- For much of the summer, Dustan Wisner,
and his friends have whiled away the days fishing the banks of the
On Friday, he and his friends were beside the river again -- no poles
in sight. This time, they were learning that a toxic spill was snaking
its way through the slow current and killing vast numbers of fish.
"That stinks," Dustan said.
And it did.
The toxin was liquid cow manure -- three million gallons in all -
creating a murky plume that stretched for miles and giving unfortunate
new meaning to the river's name.
The manure did not so much spill as gushed from an earthen reservoir
at one of the largest dairy farms in the state, Marks Farm, in the
nearby town of Lowville.
The police were notified on Thursday morning, but the callers did not
know when the contamination actually began. "For some reason, one of
the walls of the reservoir gave way and it started flowing into Black
River," said James M. Martin, the emergency manager for Lewis County,
which includes Lowville.
Workers tried to shore up the pit, but so much manure escaped that the
contamination grew to roughly a fourth the size of the 1989 Exxon
Valdez oil spill. "It started killing
all the fish," Mr. Martin said.
River is known
for its fish."
Trout, bass, pickerel, pike and walleye, to be exact. As the manure
traveled the river's northwest current through several Adirondack
communities toward Watertown,
a city of 25,000, and on to Lake
Ontario, it sapped the water of oxygen and
poisoned the fish with
ammonia. Hours later, fish began to bloat and float to the surface.
"It's the biggest fish kill I've ever seen," said Frank Flack, the
regional fisheries manager for the State Department of Environmental
Conservation, as he paused while taking oxygen measurements from the
river in Carthage, an Adirondack town about 15 miles east of
"Before it's all done, it could end up to be millions of fish," he
said. "Some of those pike are 20 pounds, so they're 10 to 20 years
old. It will be years before the river completely recovers."
Health inspectors were busy testing E. coli levels in wells. Emergency
crews tried to dilute the contamination by increasing the water flow
to a Black River tributary.
Watertown, which uses the river for some of
its public water supply,
has cut off intake of the water. A national kayak competition was
still scheduled to take place in Watertown next weekend. Residents are
praying for rain before then.
Canadian officials were keeping track of the plume's path and hoping
it would be diluted by the time it reached Kingston and other Lake
Ontario communities next week.
Investigators said they did not yet know whether Marks Farm was
negligent or the victim of some kind of industrial accident. With a
milking herd of 3,000 and 55 employees, the sprawling farming complex
is one of the larger employers in the region, which depends on
agriculture and tourism to survive.
Much of the product is used for kosher milk, residents said, and is
shipped to outlets in New York City. Mr. Martin said he knew of no
previous spills from the farm.
The farm's manager, David Peck, declined to comment, saying, "I'm too
busy cleaning up the mess to talk now." The farm's Web site says that
it is developing a "manure handling system" as part of its business
Mr. Martin said he had been told by the farm's employees that they
were planning to spread some of their manure supply on corn and hay
But Steven M. Fuller, whose restaurant, Memories, sits on the banks of
the Black River in Lowville, said manure odor from
the complex had
permeated the air long before the spill. "Unfortunately, that's a part
of living in this area," he said. "Farming is vital to the community,
but hopefully this spill will lead to better regulation."
Since the accident, he and his staff have been clearing the banks of
dead fish so customers will not be repulsed. He has had his well water
tested, he said, and it is safe. "Business is starting to pick up
again," he said, adding: "Except for the outside decks. That part
hasn't been good."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company