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

Folks -- the Sierra Club has posted the data and materials from the samples for this study on our website at http://michigan.sierraclub.org/issues/cafos/CAFOwater.shtml -- there were 8 sites (10 were originally planned but the consultant could not find two field tile sites so they were dropped) with 12 weeks of samples taken from July - September last year.  98% of the samples, including what were allegedly “upstream” sites had E.coli levels in violation of the state’s water quality standards for full body contact.  The upstream had less, in some cases dramatically less, E.coli than the downstream sites.  One downstream site almost certainly was contaminated by wastes entering from a developed area near the city of Hartford, and that was the site with the worst E.coli counts (3.9 million cfu per 100 ml).  However, other sites in the agricultural lands were also extremely high (1.6 million cfu per 100 ml). 


There was also sampling for chemicals, including phosphorus and nitrate/nitrites -- evidently, DEQ staff have been confused that these levels were considered relatively low compared with what they would have expected from the high E.coli reading.  From experts we deal with around the country on CAFO issues, this is not at all surprising.  The Sierra Club has been highly critical of the protocol used in the study so far, and as we delve into more files from the DEQ our concerns have grown.  As a result, we sent a letter last week requesting that the DEQ submit this study protocol and the sampling data to peer review before finalizing it.


We are very disappointed in this letter to the editor for a number of reasons.  The Director appears to reach a conclusion about the study which has not yet been finished (we have learned that the DEQ will in fact be modifying their protocol and expanding the study to include more facilities, which is a step in the right direction).  In addition, I am at a loss to understand this specific statement: 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. 


The den Dulks have several CAFOs in Michigan, and in fact were awarded millions in tax payer subsidized loans simply to build the Hartford Dairy CAFO (so call Industrial Development Revenue Bonds (IDRBs) floated by the Michigan Strategic Fund to subsize loans), with no special treatment facilities, and despite the vast opposition of the local community to this facility.  The originally named Liberty Dairy CAFO was permitted right next to the town of Orleans in Ionia County in a site with ground water just a few feet down, next to a major wetland, and just a mile from the sole source aquifer for Ionia, again over the excellent testimony of people throughout the community that this facility was in a very bad place both for air and water pollution potential.  The Liberty Dairy CAFO also received approval for IDRB loans, which was changed by the MSF to just allow its use for technology for pollution control after concerns were raised about the unrestricted loans to Hartford CAFO and the Mibelloon Dairy CAFO on the border of Gratiot and Midland Counties.  Liberty CAFO ultimately declined the loan. Now the den Dulks are proposing to run waste from a proposed CAFO in Muskegon County into a municipal waste system, which sounds like a fine idea until you learn that CAFO wastes are 25 to 100 times more concentrated than human sewage, and when you realize that the whole excuse for CAFOs in the first place is that they can return nutrients to the soil in place of fertilizers it seems a little incongruous. 


Any industry that spends money to comply with environmental laws is doing its civic duty, but the suggestion that somehow this company warrants particular note, especially when it is not yet clear from the study whether they are violating the state’s water pollution laws, is inappropriate. 



Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Trigger, Grant R.
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 9:45 AM
To: Michigan Beachwalker; enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: E-M:/ RE: / DEQ Director Chester Defends CAFOs in Letter to the Editor


Where is the E coli coming from in the upstream waters - seems to me having that information might be relevant before reaching any conclusions - or don't the facts matter? 




Grant R Trigger

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn

2290 First National Building

Detroit, Michigan 48226


phone 313-465-7584

fax     313-465-7585





From: owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-enviro-mich@great-lakes.net] On Behalf Of Michigan Beachwalker
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 9:36 AM
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Subject: 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


Michigan Department

of Environmental Quality

P.O. Box 30242


(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.)



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