Feedlots and Dairy Farms Pollute in Waterways and Wells
There are 41,000 dairy cows in Brown County, WI. Each year, these cows produce 260+ million gallons of manure. The manure is stored in ponds and then spread on farm fields as fertilizer. This year, 100+ wells in the Madison area were polluted by agricultural runoff. Residents have suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and severe ear infections.
The Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates chemicals or contaminants that move through pipes or ditches, which means it does not typically apply to sprayed waste that runs off and seeps into groundwater. Agricultural pollutants that contaminate drinking water sources are often subject only to state or county regulations.
To remedy situations like this, EPA has created rules for farms with 700+ cows. However, 1000s of feedlots that should be regulated are basically ignored because farmers never file paperwork. Regulations passed during the previous administration allow many of farms to self-certify that they will not pollute. This is a nationwide problem.
Fifteen percent of wells in agricultural areas of California exceed federal thresholds. Chesapeake Bay has been seriously damaged by agricultural pollution. Arkansas and Maryland have a problem with chicken manure polluting drinking water. In 2005, Oklahoma’s attorney general sued 13 poultry companies, claiming they had damaged one of the state’s most important watersheds.
Want more information? Read the complete article online at the New York Times.