FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Patrick Mitchell, EIP, 703/276-3266
Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, 202/675-6279
EPA Must Limit Factory Farm Animal Waste Bacteria, Groups Say
E. coli-Tainted Spinach Illustrates Need for Tougher Safeguards
WASHINGTON (September 26, 2006) – Three top national organizations working to safeguard the country’s food and water supplies warn that bacterial pollution from livestock and poultry factory farms poses a major threat to public health. The warning from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project comes in the wake of a highly publicized E. coli outbreak from California-grown spinach.
The three groups are meeting with Environmental Protection Agency officials this afternoon to urge the agency to strengthen regulations controlling factory farm pollution. Last June the agency proposed a rule that fails to require factory farms to adequately reduce E. coli and other dangerous pathogens in the animal waste they generate, which pollutes waterways across the country. (For more information, go to www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/060622b.asp. For the EPA’s proposed rule, go to www.epa.gov/npdes/afo/revisedrule.)
“Factory farms are a major source of E. coli contamination, but the EPA is not doing enough to protect our food and water,” said Melanie Shepherdson, an NRDC attorney. “We have the technology today to dramatically reduce the bacteria, viruses and parasites in factory farm animal waste. We shouldn’t have to worry about eating contaminated vegetables or drinking water.”
The source for the E. coli
“We can’t ignore the potential connection between factory
farms and E. coli in humans, both
through drinking water and irrigation of vegetables,” said Michele
Merkel, an Environmental Integrity Project attorney. “For example,
The EPA announced the new proposed rule in response to a February 2005 U.S. Court of Appeals decision ordering the agency to revise a 2003 rule controlling factory farm water pollution. That ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed by NRDC, the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance that maintained the 2003 rule was not strong enough (see www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/030310.asp).
Factory farms now
dominate animal production across the country. In 2001, 5 percent of
Contact with manure, usually through water, can cause a number of diseases, including salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. Symptoms range from headaches to abdominal gas and pain, to fever, kidney failure and even death. The very old, infants and young children, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women are especially at risk. The EPA concedes that the manure poses a significant health threat. “More than 150 pathogens found in livestock waste are associated with risk to humans,” the agency has stated, “including the six human pathogens that account for more than 90 percent of food and waterborne diseases in humans.”
The 2005 Court of Appeals ruling ordered the EPA to set standards to reduce factory farm pathogen discharges. According to the environmental organizations, there are technologies available today that can reduce those pathogens by more than 99 percent.
“Factory farm waste poses serious risks to our health and environment,” said Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program. “This E. coli outbreak reminds us that we can’t continue to ignore the problem. The EPA should require factory farms to use modern pollution controls.”
# # #
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit
organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to
protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more
than 1.2 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in
Inspired by their personal connection to nature, the Sierra
Club’s more than 700,000 members work together to protect the planet. The
Sierra Club is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots
environmental organization in
The Environmental Integrity Project (www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to stronger enforcement of existing federal and state anti-pollution laws, and to the prevention of political interference with those laws. EIP’s research and reports shed light on how enforcement and rulemaking affect public health. EIP also works closely with communities seeking enforcement of environmental laws.