Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organized to educate the public on the health risks and the environmental damage Confined Animal Feeding Operations have brought to our community and its watersheds. We developed this website to provide documentation on the pollution here and to promote Sustainable Alternatives (buy local food & pasture-based meat).
In recent years (1997-2012), 13 CAFOs – most of them dairies – were constructed or expanded from smaller operations in our area. Major expansions continue. Dairy CAFOs confine 700 or more cows, often several thousand cows, in warehouse-size steel barns, year-round. The liquid manure from CAFOs is a major pollutant of soils and waterways. Animal manure and and animal carcasses contain many pathogens (disease-causing organisms such as Cryptosporidium, E. coli bacteria, Listeria – see EPA's comprehensive list of pathogens and symptoms). These pathogens can threaten human health, other livestock, aquatic life, and wildlife.
As family farmers and neighbors, we are concerned about Lake Erie, our drinking water, and the massive risk of liquid manure systems, liquid manure on tile-drained fields. Liquid manure, like rain, can drain to field tiles, which drain to streams. All streams here flow to Lake Erie. Contaminated flow that reaches a stream is a discharge. Discharges that violate Michigan's water quality standards are illegal. 12 CAFOs in our area have discharged illegally or violated their CAFO Permits. Since 2000, there have been 4,680 violations and discharges in our area, many of them multiple-day violations (see violations list).
Research/Studies - national and local research on CAFO risks to water, air, public health; also ECCSCM hand-out with recent books/films
THE DEVASTATION - close-up imagery of manure cesspits here
EPA releases guidelines for algal toxicity levels in drinking water. Good luck this summer, Toledo (and Monroe, MI, and Saginaw Bay water intakes). EPA recommended limits (not water standards), in parts per billion: for children younger than school age, 0.3 ppb for microcystin; for all others, 1.6 ppb for microcystin. Most states with drinking water standards for microcystin set the limit at 1 ppb, using a World Health Organization standard. Michigan and Ohio do not have a drinking water standard for microcystin.
On outlawing CAFOs - in the news this week - head to the courts:
DEQ announces 2015 CAFO General Permit, including one revision that imposes (a few) restrictions on CAFOs that manifest, give or sell, waste to others. Recipients applying CAFO waste in the months of Jan, Feb, and March without incorporation must now abide by the same winter rules that apply to CAFOs. Unfortunately, the 2015 CAFO Permit did not change winter application rules for CAFOs. Michigan has not stepped forward – in spite of recommendations from numerous studies, research, the International Joint Commission and others, that to protect Lake Erie, states and provinces must prohibit all manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground. CAFOs in Michigan can still apply on fields that meet certain slope, vegetated cover, etc. requirements. But – as we've seen for years – manure still runs off those fields in sun/thaw/rain/spring melt and still drains through surface inlets to tiles, which flow to streams. And on to Lake Erie.
April 28 - Why buffer strips aren't enough to protect Lake Erie - the form of phosphorus that spurs the growth of cyanobacteria/toxic algae is called dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP, PO4) because it dissolves in water. Dissolved phosphorus, in liquid manure for instance, drains down through soils to sub-surface field tiles and pours from the tile pipes directly into streams (see image below, Carter Dr in Lenawee Co). Buffers on the surface don't stop the dissolved phosphorus flowing underground through tiles. Unfortunately, most Lake Erie funding dollars are going to farmers for buffer strips. Buffers are considered a best management practice (BMP) – and they are, for runoff from the surface of the field. That's good. Buffers do catch another form of phosphorus that's attached to soils and runs off the surface with sediment. But this soil-attached phosphorus isn't the major spur for growth of toxic algae. DRP is. To protect Lake Erie, more serious changes in ag practices will be required for CAFOs: in-field basins or wetlands to capture the tile flow; or better, no liquid manure on tiled fields and municipal-grade waste treatment for CAFO waste; or best of all for our watersheds and for our communities, fewer CAFOs, more farms! with pasture-based livestock production.
April 27 - Regional Petition to EPA - today, ECCCM joined 30 Michigan, Ohio and Indiana environmental, farm, grass-roots and other organizations urging EPA to take a regional approach with actions to protect Lake Erie. The groups petitioned EPA to "designate the western Lake Erie basin as impaired and act without delay to address CAFO-related impacts to the watershed." Barbara Sha Cox, spokesperson for Indiana CAFO Watch, said “This is a vital step in protecting the water. Clean water should be the goal of all residents and farmers." See press release and full letter to EPA.
April 25 - Toledo Blade editorial today, "Saving Lake Erie," supports a recent Lucas County report that calls for designating the Maumee River a distressed watershed, to permit regional action. The report also concludes that "solely voluntary efforts will not clean up Lake Erie; legal mandates with enforcement teeth are necessary." Important actions recommended include "better data collection to monitor both the extent of pollution in the broader Lake Erie watershed and the success of measures to reduce it."
April 23 - draglining liquid manure, trucking solids, spraying, spreading from several CAFOs (see Stench Alerts), including Hoffland Farms CAFO, with dragline apparently crossing Rice Lake Drain, a high-risk practice. (See Rice Lake Drain E. coli issues in post from yesterday.)
April 22 - We're testing the streams near CAFOs here because CAFOs are not. DEQ is not. ECCSCM's 2015 Volunteer Water Monitoring Project has begun, with periodic sampling at 8 sites near 4 CAFOs. All sites are in western River Raisin or eastern Bean Cr watersheds, and all these waters flow to Lake Erie. Test results from sampling on 4-20-15 show two sites of serious concern: Rice Lake Dr at Haley Rd, and Deline Dr Ext at Tomer Rd - both near Hoffland Dairy CAFO facility and/or manure application fields. Water samples from these 2 sites violated Michigan's water quality standards for E. coli (5,900/100mL at Rice Lake Drain; 2,100/100mL at Deline Dr Ext); and both also tested extremely high in Nitrate, Phosphate (PO4), and Ammonia. In fact, EVERY SITE tested extremely high in Phosphate (PO4), the dissolved phosphorus implicated in the toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie. See total data from 8 sites, 4-20-15. Rice Lake Drain has a long history of E. coli contamination (2002-2015), as well as documentation in 2004 of the pathogen Cryptosporidium at this site by MSU and international Cryptosporidium researcher Dr Joan Rose. In spite of this, and a history of violations at Hoffland CAFO, DEQ has not tested this site - and many others of concern - in the last 10 years.
April 15 - Lenawee Co Road Commission signs posted on Forrister Rd, marking road damage between New Flevo Dairy and Skinner Hwy.
April 14 - More stench for neighbors, more liquid manure on wet ground, and more road damage at several locations as manure-tankers continue hauling. More photos/details on Stench Alerts.
April 13 - New Flevo Dairy CAFO draglining with at least 5 tankers hauling to Manitou Rd, with serious road damage on Forrister Rd (see photo).
April 9 - Rain last night and rain today, with serious runoff from New Flevo Dairy manure application fields along Hoddinott Rd.
April 7 - Ohio DNR just now confirmed a manure spill in Paulding Co last month, after application to frozen and snow-covered ground and subsequent melt, with manure reaching Flat Rock Creek, a tributary of the Maumee River/Lake Erie.
April 1 - New aerial photos today show serious concerns for waste management at multiple facilities, including Bleich CAFO pumping manure across the production area (why?), lagoon-to-lagoon-to-tankers. Warner production area shows significant silage runoff. And at Terrehaven CAFO, same as the last 3 years, manure is over-topping the containment barrier at production area, and also over-topping containment at new barns at the back of property, near Black Cr., a tributary of Wolf Cr, a drinking water source for the City of Adrian. See also, at ground level, the surge of CAFO manure applications at several locations.
March 25 - Ohio passes bill that bans manure on frozen ground - In response to the Lake Erie drinking water crisis, linked in large part to phosphorus flowing from agricultural fields and tiles, the Ohio legislature passed a bill, headed to Gov. Kasich for signing, which "prohibits farmers in northwest Ohio from spreading manure on frozen or saturated fields." Important first step in protecting public health. Now, what about some action in Michigan?
March 20 - Lake Erie Water Conference at Wildwood Metro Park, Toledo, OH, included several presentations on the risk to drinking water from livestock manure and tile-drainage flow, including the ECCSCM presentation on manure data here, and a detailed slideshow by Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of the Des Moines, Iowa, Water Works, which recently filed a Notice of Intent to Sue several Iowa drainage districts for excess nitrate in Des Moines' drinking water. The nitrates flowing through field tiles and into county drains cost taxpayers millions in additional water treatment costs. See Stowe's full presentation, "Providing Safe Drinking Water in Agricultural Watersheds." Two slides below from his presentation show the extent of sub-surface tile drainage in 2 sq miles in Iowa (same intensive tiling as here, where phosphorus is the concern); and in the Midwest, from Iowa to the western Lake Erie Watershed.
March 11 - massive snow melt continues, with runoff from fields and livestock production areas – Warner Farms, Milk Source's Medina Dairy:
March 10 - Bulletin: Massive manure runoff from VDS CAFO field in Kalamazoo County (see video of pumping operation; DEQ comments). "...'With the warmup on Sunday [March 8], that snow started to run off the field along with the manure,' said Bruce Washburn, an environmental quality analyst for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. A stream of feces formed, flowing over 42nd Street into ditches and neighboring properties. The DEQ said it’s already working to contain it."
New violations: Terrehaven CAFO, Adrian (River Raisin/Lake Erie Watershed) – 10 years of noncompliance 2005-2015, with production area lacking waste containment; periodic runoff and discharges; compliance schedules not met; manure lagoons not evaluated to see if they meet standards, and other violations. Production area runoff was first noted in Feb 2005. As of Jan 2015, Terrehaven was still out of compliance with a DEQ Violation Notice from Nov 8, 2013 ordering containment of all CAFO production area waste. On Jan 29, 2015, DEQ asked Terrehaven to submit yet another "timetable" for construction of the CAFO waste collection system by May 1, 2015... "To ensure that this issue is addressed in a timely manner." Terrehaven is also still out of compliance with evaluation of waste storage structures and is required, yet again, to submit "a schedule" for the evaluation of the north storage lagoons by March 1, 2015, to bring them up to standards by Aug 1, 2015.
Feb 23 - ON FROZEN AND SNOW-COVERED GROUND - multiple manure applications by Hartland Farms CAFO, Bleich CAFO (2 locations), and Warner Farms (details, photos on Stench Alerts). Of serious concern, with severe cold for two weeks and small tributaries frozen, 2 drains downstream from New Flevo Dairy CAFO and Marowelli Farms are flowing, with unnatural color and foam:
2-23-15 - drain at New Flevo Dairy CAFO, flowing to Wallace Dr, a tributary of Hazen Cr.
Feb 3 - Feb 3 - ON FROZEN AND SNOW-COVERED GROUND - Bakerlads CAFO manure application, again. Details on Stench Alerts.
Jan 28, 2015 - 10 points, to protect our waters - Comments to DEQ on draft CAFO General Permit. ECCSCM, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, jointly submitted extensive comments to DEQ yesterday on the draft CAFO Permit. These Comments were supported by national and regional groups signing on, including The Ecology Center, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Center for Food Safety and others. The Comments focus on 10 important changes for the 2015 CAFO Permit to protect our watersheds, our health, and our Great Lakes. A few points are:
Jan 27 - ON FROZEN AND SNOW-COVERED GROUND - More CAFO waste applications by Bakerlads and Hartland Farms, along Cadmus Rd west of Morey
Jan 20 - See details of a multi-year discharge from 14 yrs ago, Jan 2001, just added to Violations list - FOIAed DEQ documents were first seen this week, Jan 2015. Bleich CAFO, Hudson, was cited for a discharge of contaminated stormwater to a tributary of St. Joseph Cr. In a DEQ letter to Bleich CAFO dated Oct 8, 2004 - more than 3 years later! - DEQ reported contaminated stormwater was still draining and discharging to waters of the state.
Jan 16 - See Media Alert from Michigan Chapter Sierra Club, ECCSCM, and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, on how and when to provide your comments to DEQ on the 2015 CAFO General Permit. Help protect Lake Erie and all of Michigan's watersheds. Ask DEQ to prohibit CAFO waste application on frozen or snow-covered ground at any time, and between Dec 15 and Mar 15, no matter the soil conditions.
Jan 15 - Big news on two fronts today:
Also Jan 15 - ON FROZEN AND SNOW-COVERED GROUND - 2 CAFOs spreading manure: Hartland Farms and Bakerlads, both in Hudson Twp.
Jan 13 - ON FROZEN AND SNOW-COVERED GROUND - Bakerlads CAFO spreading solids just north of the South Branch of the River Raisin, on east side of Morey Hwy, north of Beecher Rd.
Jan 12 - Iowa's largest city sues over farm pollution in rivers - "Des Moines, Iowa, is confronting the farms that surround it over pollution in two rivers that supply the city with drinking water. Des Moines Water Works says it will sue three neighboring counties for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers. It's a novel attempt to control fertilizer runoff from farms, which has been largely unregulated..." An idea for Toledo?
Jan 2 - ON FROZEN GROUND - Voluntary compliance? (NOPE) with DEQ's request to CAFOs to stop manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground in Lake Erie Watershed. Two CAFOs here are applying both liquid and solid manures today, on ground frozen solid. New Flevo/Waterland Dairy CAFO is hauling to at least 3 locations: spraying liquid manure just west of the village of Onsted, on a field not included in their CNMP; also spraying liquid manure on Shepherd Rd, east of Pentecost Hwy in Adrian Twp.; and also spreading solids on Forrister Rd, 1/2 mi. east of Wilkinson, with no setback from a tile riser. Elsewhere, north of Hudson, Bleich CAFO is also applying manure on frozen ground. (See Stench Alerts for more details and photos).
FIND THE CAFOS IN YOUR AREA – Click on this Food & Water Watch map