PRESS STATEMENT ON VREBA HOFF LEGAL ACTION
January 19, 2007
Statement by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter regarding
Michigan DEQ & Attorney General's
Petition to End Vreba Hoff Dairy LLC's Gross Violations of State Environmental Laws
Statement of Michigan State Director Anne Woiwode
"The Sierra Club applauds the action today by the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Attorney General, attempting to end the public health and environmental disaster unfolding at the Vreba Hoff Dairies LLC near Hudson, MI. We strongly support the state's petition to the 30th Judicial Court seeking action to stop the sewage dumping and force compliance of a previously issued consent judgment against the Vreba Hoff CAFOs."
"Sierra Club supports the DEQ's demand that immediate steps be taken to stop the flow of sewage into Michigan waterways, including reducing the size of these two dairy herds. We hope that this action will be adequate to prevent an even worse public health and environmental disaster."
"It should be noted, however, that this crisis is not over. It could take more than a month to adequately reduce the number of animals on site. In addition, lagoons remain beyond capacity. Vreba Hoff has begun hauling waste to an unauthorized and unlined sewage lagoon, and operators are currently dumping waste from the nearby Jelsma Dairy, which Vreba Hoff just purchased, on land managed by Vreba Hoff. Jelsma, a 600 head facility, has its own track record of violations and was sued by the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation in 2003. An emergency situation will continue until illegal activities have stopped and cleanup has begun."
"A much larger lesson must be learned from this ongoing disaster. The Vreba Hoff mess was entirely preventable and resulted from a combination of weak Michigan law, puny enforcement tools, inadequate operating standards under Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs) and a lack of enforcement funding. It is no surprise that this all added up to a failure to protect public health and the environment. Dozens, if not scores, of other CAFOs may be in similarly dangerous situations. Without agency monitors or heroic volunteer efforts by community members to document the pollution, there is no way to know what other CAFOs may be posing imminent threats to the public."
"The DEQ has taken the first important steps to remediate this situation. However much more needs to be done. Michigan clearly does not have the tools to control this dangerously polluting industry. Michigan's elected officials must take immediate action to plug the legal loopholes that have allowed this severely under-regulated industry to set up operations throughout our state without the essential protections for human health and the environment. Michigan's future depends on clean air, clean water, healthy families and thriving communities. Stopping the horrific situation at Vreba Hoff is just the first step."
"Sierra Club hopes that the Court will impose severe penalties for Vreba Hoff's blatant violation of law and their previous consent judgment. The facility should be required to pay for damages to local waterways, immediately cease dumping sewage, and properly treat and dispose of their waste in a way that protects public health. If Vreba Hoff can't comply with these basic measures, the facility should be shut down."
Background: Vreba Hoff Dairy LLC is one of Michigan's largest dairy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), is a chronic environmental violator (with more than 75 citations for violations of environmental laws during its existence). It has been operating under consent judgment with the DEQ for more than two years. The public health and environmental situation at Vreba Hoff has been deteriorating for many months as the operation has failed to comply with requirements for treatment of waste and has failed to properly dispose of the wastes. Over application of immense quantities of untreated animal sewage onto frozen and saturated ground, failure to comply with requirements of the consent judgment and apparent dumping of wastes directly into waterways is exposing neighbors and downstream water users to potentially deadly bacteria and chemicals. The situation poses a growing threat to the families and communities nearby and downstream in the Bean/Tiffin Watershed of the Maumee River Basin.
Documentation and complaints provided to MDEQ by Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM, www.nocafos.org), with the enormous help of a volunteer pilot with Lighthawk (http://www.lighthawk.org/), have been central to bringing this unfolding disaster to the attention of the Michigan DEQ.
109 E. Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906
ph - (517) 484-2372
fax - (517) 484-3108
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