FRIENDS: Here is my summary of the extraordinary range of testimony given last Thursday in a hearing before the DEQ on the proposed new water quality permit for industrial livestock operations (aka concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs). Sorry for it being delayed -- it bounced because it was too long, so now it is in 3 parts -- Anne Woiwode
Last night people from throughout the southern half of Michigan turned out to testify in a DEQ hearing on a proposed new, strengthened water quality general permit for industrial livestock operations (legally known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs). Nineteen people, including public health experts, farmers, elected township officials, watershed organization representatives, and volunteers and staff with Sierra Club, MEC and Clean Water Action, testified in favor of a stronger permit than proposed by the DEQ, while a Farm Bureau staffer and three owners of hog and turkey operations, who own 32 of the state’s 178 listed CAFOs between them, called for either no permits or keeping the current system that puts most industrial livestock operations under a voluntary compliance program instead of permitting. Below is a list of some highlights from the comments offered:
- Public health concerns:
o Tess Karwoski of the Michigan Environmental Council discussed the concerns about the impact of pollutants of industrial livestock operations on the health of children and the elderly. Tess noted the positions of the Center for Disease Control, the American Public Health Association and the Michigan State Medical Society that recognize the threats to public health from the pathogens released by these facilities. Water borne diseases in humans are caused by the types of pathogens present in wastes from industrial livestock operations, while the use of large amounts of antibiotics in these facilities promotes antibiotic resistance of these very pathogens that pose a threat. She noted that the proposed monitoring for possible discharges in the permit was solely visual, when many of these pathogens have no color or odor, and called for stronger monitoring requirements for all suspected contaminants. Tess urged a stricter precautionary approach and stronger controls in regulating industrial livestock facilities.
Kathy Melmoth of Environmentally
Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan who is a public health nurse and a
farmer talked about her personal observations of the impact on the health of
her neighbors caused by pollution from industrial livestock operations around
the dozen facilities outside of
o In a simple show of the problem, Lynn Henning with both ECCSCM and Sierra Club placed a bottle of water collected that day downstream from an industrial livestock operation that has been operating and turned in for violations repeatedly for at least four years. When the black sediment in the water settled, a large quantity of blood worms could be seen writhing in the jar. One other testifier suggested that perhaps the only people who would even think about drinking this water would be the operators.
- Economic impacts/Local community concerns
o Jeff van Nortwick, who described his home as “surrounded” by an industrial livestock operation, noted that any permit must assure the protection of the property rights of those near the facilities. His wetland, at the headwaters of Spring Brook, is shared with the facility and has been “systematically destroyed” by the leachate and nutrients running off from the surrounding fields. Jeff said local residents and local township officials have a right to know and to speak in order to protect their rights and safeguard the environment. He called for local units to be given authority to enforce provisions of both the Right to Farm Act in order to protect their communities.
Clay Kelterborn, Supervisor for
Val McCallum, the Township Clerk for
Gayle Miller of Sierra Club talked
about her first encounter with industrial livestock operations about five years
- Requiring all information to be provided and giving public access to information
o Many people testified in favor of requiring that Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans be provided as part of the permit, which is not in the current draft for the permit.
o Gayle Miller dismissed the concern that public disclosure would lead to terrorist threats to the food system, noting that anyone with web access to aerial photos can figure out where these industrial livestock operations are housed.
o Lynn Henning with Sierra Club provided a long list of questions about the permit, citing many specific information needs that must be provided to the DEQ and the public before a good decision could be made about whether to issue a permit.
END OF PART 1
Anne Woiwode, State Director
Sierra Club Mackinac (
517-484-2372 fax 517-484-3108
Enjoy, Explore and Protect - www.michigan.sierraclub.org