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E-M:/ DEQ Director Chester Defends CAFOs in Letter to the Editor



 
 
Something about this just isn't right.  To me, it smells worse than the CAFOs! 
 
Why would the DEQ director be writing to the Muskegon Chronicle defending the CAFO industry?  This letter was sent after an excellent article by Jeff Alexander, Michigan's premier environmental journalist, reviewing the results of MDEQ studies on the DenDulk CAFO (Hartford Dairy) operation. 
 
In this story, DEQ officials also kept making excuses for the facility saying that the high E. coli concentrations in surface waters downstream from the Den Dulk CAFO facility could not be definitively tied to the animal feedlot operation.  Water Bureau staff designed and conducted the study, and to this layman, it appears to show Den Dulk polluting the waters of the state of Michigan. 
 
But now we have water bureau staff saying that they can't determine anything from their own data, and DEQ Director Chester writing a letter talking about all of the money that has been spent by the CAFO and how the DEQ's own study can't pinpoint the cause of the documented pollution in the area.  This facility has been cited for numerous violations by MDEQ field staff.
 
 
Did the Farm Bureau write this letter for him?? 
 
Hopefully someone can get the legislature to investigate the situation.  Ask your senator or representative to look into this.  It seems like "CattleGate" to me.
 
Text of the Steve Chester Letter follows (from Sunday's Muskegon Chronicle).
 
'Simple solutions'
evade investigators
The presence of E. coli bacteria in Michigan surface waters is a complex problem with no simple solution. While it may be appealing to blame the largest nearby farm as the source, as was done in a recent story by Jeff Alexander, actual sources of E. coli typically are numerous and include small scale agriculture, failing septic systems, and even wildlife populations, in addition to large-scale farming operations.
True, some farms have failed to protect water quality, which is why the Department of Environmental Quality's regulatory programs exist. When evidence indicates that a farm has caused a violation of water quality standards, the DEQ takes action to curtail the violation. However, we must also recognize those farmers who act responsibly and are good environmental stewards.
The den Dulk family is spending millions of dollars to improve the management of their waste and to protect water quality at their dairies. Although there are elevated levels of E. coli in surface waters both upstream and downstream of Hartford dairy, there simply is insufficient evidence to determine the source, or sources, of that contamination at this time.

Steven E. Chester
Director
Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 30242
Lansing
(Editor's note: The Chronicle's Jan. 22 article on Timothy den Dulk's Hartford Dairy did not claim that the farm was the source of E. coli contamination in nearby creeks. The article quoted DEQ officials who said there wasn't enough data to determine whether manure from Hartford Dairy's fields was fouling the creeks, even though the state's study of water quality near the farm was designed to do just that. DEQ officials were quoted as saying they were still trying to pinpoint the source of the bacterial pollution.)