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E-M:/ Manure contamination of drinking water in Batavia NY - Lesson for Michigan?


Recent news from NY that could be a story in Michigan tomorrow.  While Michigan has a Groundwater pollution statute, along with much of the rest of the regulatory regime regarding CAFOs, the proactive protection of this resource, meaning requiring a facility to obtain a groundwater discharge permit, only kicks in when a CAFO has 5000 or more “animal units” (equivalent to 3500 dairy cows, 5000 beef cattle, 12,500 hogs, etc.).  The law does prohibit discharges into the groundwater by any CAFO, but this is an even harder challenge to document than the problems with surface water contamination. 


In NY, however, it appears that an incident at an operation near Batavia was found to have contaminated well water with E.coli bacteria and coliform bacteria.  Below are a couple of articles (one from the NY Rural Water Organization, the other from a television station) about the problem and attempts to clean up the problem.  The last link below is from the Environmental Working Group’s database of subsidies under the federal Farm Bill -- the link goes to the Boxler Dairy Farm information, since this is the facility responsible for the pollution.


So, do the math yourselves:  Farm Subsidies to Boxler Dairy Farms of almost $480,000 from 2003 to 2005; $300,000 “emergency funding” from USDA in June 2007 to assist residents with wells contaminated by this operation; and then $1.8 million from USDA for a new water system for the community.  However, as the July 9 article makes clear, the residents/victims of this pollution will also have to pay out of their own pockets as well, in some cases thousands of dollars. 


Well, I suppose that is on way to bring economic development dollars to the community from CAFOs.


Revised June 14, 2007

Emergency Funding in Response to Groundwater Contamination

Posted 6/14/2007

NY Congressman Thomas Reynolds (R- Clarence) announced on June 11, 2007 that the USDA has approved $300,000 in emergency funding to assist residents in Genesee County that had their wells contaminated in early April 2007 likely due to the spreading of manure. The funding comes from the USDA’s Rural Development Emergency and Imminent Community Water Assistance Grant Program (ECWAG). Local media accounts indicate that water lines will be extended to the affected area. In April, 56 residents submitted a petition to the Batavia Town Board requesting public water. Wells at some 60 residences in the Towns of Batavia and Stafford have tested positive for E. coli or coliform bacteria. Ultraviolet disinfection equipment was installed at the costs of dairy farmer Hans Boxler Jr. and the Towns of Batavia and Stafford. Preliminary findings from the state allege that Mr. Boxler violated state conservation law and a state permit when he spread manure on approximately 274 acres. Reportedly, Boxler spread too much cow manure on several different dates in January and February. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation is also alleging that he violated state Environmental Conservation Law and the conditions of his Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit by polluting several local streams with wastewater from bunk silos on his farm.


Money Ensures Safe Drinking
July 9, 2007

by Bonyen Lee
photo by R News Staff
Published Jul 09, 2007


The more than 60 residents in the Town of Batavia and Stafford will soon be able to drink safely from their faucets after an E. Coli contamination in April. The source of the contamination is believed to be manure from a nearby farm. Leaders have now secured a federal grant for a new water system in the Town of Stafford and Batavia. Despite the money, some residents may still have to dig into their own wallets.


Thanks to a 1.8 million dollar federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, residents can resume a normal lifestyle. Though the grant covers the water system, residents like Suozzi may face an unexpected cost.



Environmental Working Group Farm Bill 2007 Policy analysis Database
USDA directly attributed $479,874 in subsidy payments to Boxler Dairy Farms in Program Years 2003-2005




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