News Archives - 2004, 2003, 2002 to beginning of CAFO construction 1997

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Vreba-Hoff CAFO must install wastewater treatment system, pay $75,000
Dec. 28, 2004 - DEQ announced that Vreba-Hoff must install a $1,000,000 wastewater treatment system by December 2005, must apply for individual NPDES permits for both facilities, and must immediately cease all land application of untreated waste in the Lime Lake basin, a drainage area on Michigan's 303(d) list of impaired waters.  Vreba-Hoff has had multiple illegal discharges from fields along Lime Lake Inlet. With these actions, in settlement of DEQ's lawsuit against the CAFO for multiple violations, Michigan takes a first step in changing the CAFO waste system to a less liquid system. Vreba-Hoff must also pay $75,000.  See DEQ press release
ECCSCM applauds Michigan's action -- the first of its kind in dealing with untreated animal waste.  Wastewater treatment systems -- eventually full wastewater treatment, as in other industries and municipalities -- individual NPDES permits, an end to land application of untreated wastes, should be requirements for all CAFOs. The liquid waste system, the practices, and the polluting discharges of Vreba-Hoff CAFOs are no different from other CAFOs here and elsewhere in the state.
Dec. 7, 2004 - rain and runoff - milky foul stream from Bruinsma CAFO flowed through Morenci Sportsmen's Club property and into Silver Creek; contaminated runoff from Marvin Farms flowed to Hazen Creek.  DEQ water samples found E. coli count of 500,000/100 ml in Marvin Farms runoff.
bruinsma   12-7-04
foul water flowing to Silver Creek                  contaminated runoff flowing to Hazen Creek
Oct. 22, 2004 - Cryptosporidium, a pathogen that can cause serious diarrhea and sometimes death, was found at extremely high levels, 2,600 oocysts/100L and 860 potentially viable oocysts/100L, in a water sample taken on October 22, 2004, from Rice Lake Drain at Haley Rd, immediately downstream from VanderHoff Haley. (see full details)
DEQ task force reports on
ag discharge data, March 2004, at CAFO sites, Lenawee/Hillsdale
Nov 18, 2004 -- DEQ files suit against New Flevo Dairy following multiple violations. The suit alleges Arnoud Schot, owner of New Flevo, "discharged agricultural wastes from his dairy operation in Lenawee County to protected waters of the state on at least ten occasions. These discharges occurred without a permit and are alleged to have impacted area waterways including the Wallace and Penrod County Drains and Hazen Creek. The DEQ alleges that these discharges contained pollutants at concentrations that may injure the public health and the environment." (from DEQ Press Release)
Mussel survey
of Bean Creek watershed, summer 2004, finds 17 species of freshwater mussels, including 3 species of special concern -- slippershell, round pigtoe, and rainbow mussel.   Best sites were in St. Joseph Creek, and poorest sites were in Silver Creek, where no live mussels were found. ECCSCM volunteers coordinated this survey conducted by aquatic zoologists with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, MSU. For more details, photos of mussels, a clam trail, big-footed pocketbook mussel, and more! click here.
Aug 4, 2004 - DEQ files suit against Hoffland Dairy (formerly VanderHoff Haley Dairy) after multiple violations. The suit alleges Mr. Jan Vander Hoff "discharged agricultural wastes from his dairy operation to Lenawee County’s Rice Lake Drain and Bovee Drain without a permit on at least seven occasions, with the most recent occurring on July 31, 2004. In addition, the claim alleges that these discharges contained pollutants at concentrations that may injure the public health and the environment." (from DEQ press release)
(Sept. 2003) -July, 2004 - Vreba-Hoff stormwater -- contamination still flows, after 19 months (see details & photos)
Durfee Creek, Medina Drain listed as severely impaired
2 streams draining Vreba-Hoff -- Medina Drain and Durfee Creek -- have just been added to Michigan's 303(d) list of "impaired waters."  Vreba-Hoff CAFO on Dillon Hwy was the first built here, in 1997.  After 7 years of liquid manure on tile-drained fields, streams have been severely impaired.  In a few more years, what will happen to all the other streams draining all the other CAFOs?
Winter and spring pollution
As bad as last year, recent months have brought a terrible series of liquid manure discharges (50 violations, and that's only counting the days DEQ was here and taking water samples). More than half of the discharges were from Vreba-Hoff facilities and fields, with massive pollution entering Lime Lake.  DEQ also cited Vreba-Hoff for multiple contaminated stormwater discharges, noting, "Numerous water samples collected from the storm water discharge channel over the past four months have revealed high concentrations of pathogens and nutrients indicative of a direct discharge of polluting materials."
(DEQ Notice Letter, June 3, 2004)
See a few photos of discharges, below, from February. No wonder the lake turned completely green, from algal blooms in May. (See details of violations)
Pollution, health, and economic impacts cited as reasons (see APHA document)

Final report: ECCSCM Water Monitoring Project
Final report, April 2004: DEQ biosurvey of streams near CAFOs finds "significantly impaired" headwaters of two streams at Vreba-Hoff on Dillon. Both streams added to Michigan's "impaired waters" list.
Recent harassment of water monitors--trespass, vandalism

March 1, 2, 3.... on through March 24, 25...for three weeks, diesel fuel spill is flowing into Medina Drain/Bean Creek from Vreba-Hoff.  Finally March 27, after EPA action, a dam and containment system was put in place.
diesel    booms   
(above) diesel fuel spill from 1,000 gal tank in Vreba-Hoff field, March 1; HazMat booms, fuel overflowing with heavy rain March 5 

40+ illegal discharges Jan-March, 2004 --
wolf limelkeast
(above) liquid manure flows in Wolf Creek (upstream from Adrian drinking water supply);black water in Lime Lake Inlet East, February, 2004

  limelkeastred  lime lake
(above) manure discharging to Lime Lake Inlet East, Feb. 21, 2004,from Vreba-Hoff; May 5, 2004 - the lake turned completely green, from excess nutrients and algal bloom.

Harassment, vandalism -- ECCSCM condemns recent harassment of volunteer monitor

 Reasons We've Heard For The Foul Water

1. It's geese (or deer, or raccoons)
2. It's that house over there
3. It's those 6 horses
4. That's just sediment
5. It's tannins in the water (or cherry trees)
6. etc....

(why not "It's probably those 4,000 cows
& their millions of gallons of waste on the fields"?)



See chronology of Christmas 2003 pollution event from Vreba-Hoff manure application

Dec. 3 - VanderHoff Haley
manure pit overflows at the production area. Liquid manure enters a catch-basin and drains through tile to Rice Lake Drain, Haley Rd.  Black water flows in Rice Lake Drain leading to Bear Creek in the River Raisin Watershed.

Oct. 15 - after 1" of rain, animal wastes flowing in several Bean Creek tributaries. Mericam CAFO applied manure in the rain. The Bennett Drain, just downstream, was flowing dark brown with strong manure odor. The wetland on Dillon Hwy at Vreba-Hoff was flowing fast, black water, with Dissolved Oxygen at dead-zone levels, 2.28mg/L.

 wetland1      wetland2
black water and DO reading at wetland, Dillon Hwy, 10-15-03

September-- Michigan DEQ files suit against Vreba-Hoff for "unlawfully discharging agricultural wastes to waters of the state from its two facilities." DEQ asks Vreba-Hoff to construct a waste treatment system -- this is a first and major step towards cleaning up CAFOs, cleaning up our streams, and stopping contaminated liquid manure from entering field tiles, drains, and waterways.  DEQ is requesting that the court require Vreba-Hoff to "thoroughly evaluate the design and management of its agricultural operations and make the necessary changes, including a potential reduction in livestock, to eliminate illegal discharges to waters of the state."
See full DEQ press release:,1607,7-135--75227--,00.html

Sept. 19
--19 days of excessive stench and flies with no relief, along Beecher and Cadmus Roads west of Bakerlads dairy.  This facility has sprayed thick, liquid manure since Labor Day-- including on Labor Day --and almost every day since without turning it under. 

flies 2       flies1
flies on inside of car roof, near Bakerlads, 9-3-03; flies in jar, after 10 days at picnic area, Beecher Rd, near Bakerlads. 9-18-03

week of Sept 15 -- extreme odor along US-127 south of Hudson, near Vreba-Hoff manure application
Sept.12 -- manure odor/emissions from field application in several areas -- stench in Hudson;along US-127 south of Hudson; and in vicinity of Dillon Hwy/Medina Rd
Labor Day weekend: excessive flies and stench, after liquid manure application west of Morey Hwy, north of Cadmus Rd. 
Aug 27:stench along Plank Rd near Hughes Hwy
week of Aug 18: horrendous stench along Cadmus Rd east of Hudson, between Posey Lake Hwy & Morey Hwy (and 2 miles north, south, east, west, depending which way the wind's blowing). Hartland Farms applied liquid manure on Cadmus Rd property.

Aug 2- this weekend, Vreba-Hoff 2 illegally discharged the millions of gallons of contaminated stormwater (see below, April-May) by opening an in-line water strucutre during rains.  All the contaminated water flowed into the Bean Creek Watershed.  DEQ reports that the facility will be cited for a discharge violation and fined.

July 9 -- after moderate rains in early July, liquid manure is discharging at several sites, including an inlet to Durfee Lake, and South Medina Drain, where the water looks very foul, a reddish-brown color.
South Medina Drain, July 9, 2003

June 12 -- rain brings many discharges, at sampling sites throughout the area, with extremely high E. coli bacteria counts: Bear Creek at Beecher -- 21,780; Rice Lake Drain -- 20,790.

June 10, 2003 -- Another manure discharge from Jelsma/Mericam
After application of liquid manure to CRP ground (not allowed), manure enters field tiles and discharges through Timma Drain to Lime Creek (Bean/Tiffin Watershed).  DEQ found DO levels in Timma Drain at 0.9mg/L.  2 weeks later, Mericam applied liquid manure on the same field!

May 9, 2003 -- After 1" of rain overnight, and rains earlier in the week, the contaminated stormwater illegally impounded at Vreba-Hoff 2 facility overflows the temporary dikes and discharges to Lime Lake. DEQ inspects the site, but so far no action has been taken (except more dikes) to protect our watershed and the public health.  People will soon be putting in docks at Lime Lake, and swimming.  When will DEQ demand removal of this contaminated water and removal of the temporary dikes? 

April 19, 2003 -- Vreba-Hoff cited, fined for multiple violations. See list. Millions of gallons of contaminated stormwater were impounded for months around the Vreba-Hoff 2 dairy CAFO (see photos below).  This facility lies upslope and less than 1/2 mi. from Lime Lake.  The inlets to Lime Lake tested at extremely high levels of E. coli (35,640/100ml at one site; 25,740 at another on March 18).    (Aerial photos taken March 27, 2003)

Vreba-Hoff 2 facility, US-127 south of Hudson, surrounded by contaminated stormwater (above),looking north; and looking south towards Lime Lake (below)
lime lk

The American Public Health Association (APHA) has issued a resolution urging federal, state, and local government health agencies to impose a precautionary moratorium on all new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Pollution, health, and economic impacts cited as reasons for a moratorium. (see APHA document)

Feedlot runoff disrupts reproductive systems of wild fish - important findings in a study by The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, just published in Environmental Health Perspectives (Dec 2003). "Responding to the growth of concentrated animal feeding operations and the pollutants present in their wastewater (e.g., nutrients, pharmaceuticals, and hormones), the US EPA developed a new rule that tightens regulation of these operations. In this study, we collected wild fathead minnows exposed to feedlot effluent and observed significant alterations in their reproductive biology," including demasculinized male fish. Details and full article available at

March 2-15, 2003 -- Liquid manure applied to frozen ground has been running off fields, pouring into streams. We've seen massive contamination in three watersheds these two weeks -- 5 more confirmed discharges.  DEQ E. coli samples at one site on March 4 reached the highest levels yet: 1,340,000/100 ml (more than 1,300 times the acceptable level).  None of the pollution was contained -- it all flowed downstream into the St. Joseph River, the River Raisin, or the Bean/Tiffin River to Lake Erie.

manurestream  mulberry
3-2-03, manure flow in Toad Creek just reaching culvert; and 3-8-03 downstream--- Mericam Dairy. After application to frozen ground, Coman Rd (Wright Twp, Hillsdale County), manure ponded overnight in the field, then drained across neighbor's property to Farnam County Drain and directly into Toad Creek, the major tributary of Lime Creek in the Bean/Tiffin watershed.  click for video

March 2003 -- More violations from Vreba-Hoff lead to DEQ Administrative Consent Order (ACO), with $3,100 civil fine and stipulated penalties for future discharges.

February 2003 -- Vreba-Hoff finally fined!  After multiple illegal discharges to the Bean Creek Watershed, the State of Michigan fined Vreba-Hoff 1 (Dillon Hwy, Medina Twp) and Vreba-Hoff 2 (US-127, Wright Twp) $15,000 each, and stipulated penalties of $2,500 each for any additional violations. In addition, the two operations will be required to reimburse state costs, construct silage runoff control systems, and Vreba-Hoff 1 will be required to remediate a swale and wetland contaminated by silage leachate.

Sunday, March 9, 2003 -- Runoff of manure from fields, into drains and streams, continues. Six industrial dairies applied liquid manure to frozen ground in recent weeks -- pollution flows to streams today from all those applications. Here are just a few photos:

rice lake drain    bovee
(above) most foul-smelling of all locations, Rice Lake Drain, Haley Rd;Bovee Drain, Whaley Rd
toad cr  inside catch
Toad Creek, Coman Rd; and manure flow inside catch-basin, Drain 261 to Toad Creek

Saturday, March 8, 2003 -- very warm during the afternoon, 40 degrees.  Massive runoff of liquid manure from frozen fields.
liquid manure from field off photo at left, flowing onto neighbor's property and into catch-basin (center front, in snow) for Miller Drain, which flows to South Branch of River Raisin.

Friday, March 7, 2003 -- weather is warming slightly.  Most streams are still solid ice, but some drains downstream from fields where liquid manure was applied are flowing brown.

bear cr  whaley
Bear Creek, Hughes Hwy(left); tributary of South Branch of River Raisin (right)

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 --all sites had water discoloration, manure odor

Liquid manure applied to frozen ground is flowing today, both overland and through tile inlets to county drains and streams. The awful manure discharge into Toad Creek on Sunday looks like just the beginning.  ECCSCM Pollution Watch volunteers observed at least 5 illegal discharges today. There is clearly visible pollution of streams in 3 watersheds -- Lime Creek, Durfee Creek, and Toad Creek in the Bean/Tiffin watershed; Bear Creek in the River Raisin watershed; and a tributary of the East Branch of the St. Joe in the St. Joseph River watershed.

pulledplug  stjoemaumee 
(above) pulled/blown tile plug US127, drains to Fisher Lake (Bean/Tiffin); Tamarack drain downstream from liquid manure application (East Branch of St. Joseph River)

3-5coman  coman
(above) Aftermath of Sunday's huge manure flow to Toad Creek (Bean/Tiffin).  This field shows ponded manure draining to Toad Creek through a county drain--left, bales pulled this morning, allowing more contamination to reach Toad Creek; right, bales replaced this afternoon on order of Hillsdale County Drain Commission.

durfee      dillon 
(above) Durfee Creek at Packard (Bean/Tiffin); Durfee Extension at Dillon Hwy (Bean/Tiffin);

3-13-03, manure runoff to catch-basin on Donnelly Rd, drain to Fisher Lake (Medina Twp, Lenawee Co.) -- Vreba-Hoff 2

Other field locations with massive runoff to drains and streams:
Bothwell & Packard Rds, to Bean Creek -- Vreba-Hoff 2 DEQ-confirmed discharge
Acker Rd, to Durfee Lake -- Vreba-Hoff 2
Tuttle & Tamarack Rds, to East Branch of St. Joseph River -- Vreba-Hoff 2
Ingall Hwy, to Medina Drain and Bean Creek -- Vreba-Hoff 1 DEQ-confirmed discharge
Dillon Hwy, to Durfee Creek and Lime Creek -- Vreba-Hoff 1
Forrister Rd, to Hazen Creek -- New Flevo
Hughes Hwy, to Henning Drain and Bear Creek-- Hartland Farms

January 28, 2003 -- everything else is frozen, but drains are flowing near liquid manure application. See photos.


November, 2002 -- CAFO intimidation tactics. Two manure-tankers and hauler's truck block ECCSCM Vice-President's car on a country road. See photos.


March, 2000 – Hartland Farms on Hughes Highway discharges 400,000 gal. of manure into Henning Drain and Bear Creek; after a delay of 3 wks, negotiating on the clean-up, a heavy rain washes manure and 12 million gal. of polluted water into Lake Hudson, a State Park.

February, 2000 - New Flevo Farms on Forrister Road illegally discharges 20,000 lbs. of milk into drain leading to Wallace Creek and Hazen Creek in the River Raisin Watershed.

1997-2000 - first dairy CAFOs constructed in the Hudson area