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

Enviro-Mich message from "Robert McCann" <mccannr@michigan.gov>

The DEQ handles the regulation of CAFOs very seriously. We certainly agree that they pose the potential to create serious water quality problems for Michigan if they are not operated properly.  When a problem occurs at a CAFO, we have and will continue to take decisive enforcement action against them to correct it and uphold our responsibility to the environment and public health of Michigan.  I believe that over the past 3 years the Department has made tremendous progress to improve the way in which CAFOs operate in our state.

In this particular case, however, there are a number of questions that still need answers.  Previous testing done near the Hartford dairly had showed no elevated levels of E. coli, part of the reason why that site was chosen for this particular study.  While our staff was certainly surprised to see the new results come back showing those high levels of E.coli, they were also left to wonder the reason for it.  The easiest answer is to simply point the finger at Hartford Dairy, but the easiest answer isn't always the right one.  We simply do not take enforcement action under any circumstances without having the backing of conclusive data.  Right now, we have data, but it isn't telling us the rest of the story.  

Our next step is to learn the rest of the story.  Most likely, this will include the need to do more sampling to help us understand where the E.coli is coming from and how we can address it.  But the bottom line as it stands now, and the reason behind Director Chester's letter, is that we don't have all the answers yet.  

Robert McCann
Press Secretary
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Phone:  517-241-7397
Fax:  517-241-7401
Email: mccannr@michigan.gov  

>>> "Anne Woiwode" <Anne.Woiwode@sierraclub.org> 02/20/06 10:44 AM >>>
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


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


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


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

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


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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