News Archives 2006, 2005

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Christmas, 2006 - Just as the holiday and agency vacation time began, Vreba-Hoff began construction of a new manure lagoon (no construction permit required, no DEQ approval required? no oversight under the Consent Judgment?) on Packard Hwy west of Bothwell -- a gravel road, a 2-mile hauling drive from the facility on Dillon. No assessment was made so far as we know about the soils, the site, the possible connections to tiles, to nearby wetlands.

Vreba-Hoff's Consent Judgment requires treatment of manure to stop the pollution, not more and more pits of untreated waste, more and more hauling, more and more dumping.
wetlands1 wetlands2photocredit
quick-dug Vreba-Hoff lagoon (at top) adjacent to wetlands; close-up on right - Dec. 29, 2006

Dec, 2006 - Vreba-Hoff proposes new 5,000-cow CAFO near Adrian in River Raisin Watershed.  This site drains to Black Creek, already listed as "impaired." Black Creek joins the River Raisin just upstream from Blissfield, a city that takes its drinking water from the River.  Vreba-Hoff's test wells already dried up a neighbor's well.
See Adrian DailyTelegram article, Dec. 20, 2006.

See 2 studies from Union of Concerned Scientists on environmental/health benefits of pasture-based agriculture: Greener Pastures and Greener Eggs & Ham

Dec 1, 2006 - Noncompliance letters to Vreba-Hoff from both DEQ and the Attorney General's Office cite multiple, substantial violations (see complete list), including unlawful discharges and mismanagement of waste.The Attorney General cites "numerous violations at both of your farms...the apparent failures of the Press Treatment System and resulting accumulation of excessive amounts of CAFO waste, treated and untreated." The letter notes more than a dozen violations in 6 areas -- Unlawful Discharges, Press Treatment System, Compost Pads, Waste Storage Structures (overfull), Storm Water Management, Recordkeeping & Reporting. In October, DEQ found the Waste Treatment System was "not in operation" during numerous inspections, and noted "...based on your estimate of production, you should be running the system no less than 12 hours a day, 364 days a year in order to treat all manure currently being produced annually."

Dec 1 - rain, field flooding, after a month of heavy manure application.  Think what's flowing to Lake Erie from black manure fields, bare ground saturated with waste, no crop.  Nov 25 - Thanksgiving weekend - heavy field applications (always on holidays), including illegal discharges of liquid manure through field tiles at two locations: Vreba-Hoff 1, discharge (E. coli count 10,000/100ml) to Covell Dr, trib of Bean Creek, and Hartland Farms discharge (E. coli count 55,000/100ml) to tributary of South Branch of River Raisin.

 Canadaigua  11-25-06
  Nov 25, 2006 - black water in Covell Drain, flowing to Bean Creek; sample in bottle

Nov, 2006 - updated Health Impacts from CAFOs and Liquid Manure Application Observed in Lenawee and Hillsdale County: 2002 -2006, now available. This report by ECCSCM volunteer and R.N., Kathy Melmoth, documents public health concerns and health impacts from local CAFO air pollution. (Full report; or 1-page overview)

Major air pollutants from CAFO manure application include Hydrogen sulfide, Ammonia, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Particulates. Hydrogen sulfide is a powerful neurotoxin; it can cause permanent brain damage. Short term symptoms of Hydrogen sulfide include headaches, breathing problems, shortness of breath, throat irritation, chronic bronchitis, and nausea. Long term injury can include memory loss, loss of balance, delayed reaction time, and damage to other cognitive or thinking functions. Death can come quickly in high doses. Inhaling Hydrogen sulfide is the most common route into the body and it goes directly from the lungs to the blood stream. Ammonia causes cough, eye and nose irritation, sinus, skin and breathing problems. Ammonia is usually inhaled. There can be hundreds of Volatile Organic Compounds in CAFO emissions including alcohols, hydrocarbons, phenols, etc. Particulates can include bioaerosols such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. People also breathe small particles of fecal matter, skin cells, feed, etc.  Any of these pollutants can trigger asthma, or make respiratory problems worse.

Oct 17, 2006 - rain last night and manure fields are flowing after heavy field applications this weekend (see stench alerts). Major contamination entering Bean Creek Watershed. Some drains are overflowing at CAFO facilities:Shierson Drain at Bruinsma; Bennett Drain at Waldron Dairy (fields flooded); wetland at Vreba-Hoff on Dillon is black.

Sept 26, 2006 - Missouri Hog CAFO must pay $4.5 million to neighbors suffering from stench. (see full article)
        "KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The nation's second-largest pork producer must pay $4.5 million to three families bothered by the smell from a northwest Missouri hog farm, a jury ruled.
        The same Jackson County jury also found grounds for punitive damages against Kansas City-based Premium Standard Farms, but the company agreed not to appeal the actual damages award and the plaintiffs in exchanged dropped their request for punitive damages.
        The families own or owned property near the company's farm near Trenton.
        The families' lawyer, Charles Speer, said Friday's verdict was "by far and away the biggest award (in the nation) against a major confined animal producer."
        Kirk Goza, an attorney for Premium Standard Farms, declined to comment after the verdict.
        Speer is handling more than 50 other lawsuits against Premium Standard Farms. A separate class action lawsuit involving a consortium of law firms seeks to represent anyone who owns property within 10 miles of the company's more than 20 hog farms in Missouri..."

Sept, 2006 - Mich Dept. of Ag reports two local CAFOs have applied for expansion: Vreba-Hoff 1, on Dillon Hwy, from 3,900 cows to 4,929; and Hoffland Dairy on Haley Rd (formerly Vander Hoff Haley, from 868 to 1,680 cows. That's like adding the waste from a good-sized city, 54,000+ people, to the huge waste-stream already flowing on fields in this area.

August 2006 - Vreba-Hoff cited by U.S. Food and Drug Administration for numerous animal/drug violations: An FDA investigation at Vreba-Hoff on Dillon Hwy "found that you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are likely to enter the food supply.Vreba-Hoff was cited for offering "an animal for sale for slaughter as food that was adulterated" with penicillin. Previous investigations had found oxytetracycline in tissues in a cow offered for sale. "In regard to this oxytetracycline residue, our investigator noted that you administered an approved animal drug via a route, intrauterine, which was not indicated in the labeling, without benefit of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship and that you failed to maintain adequate treatment records."
FDA letter, (August 14, 2006 -
see full letter)

August - see timeline on the suffering of neighbors, their symptoms and sickness from State Line Farms hog emissions, Jan - Aug, 2006.  36 days of stench so intolerable that neighbors called DEQ. State Line has received two Letters of Violation for air pollution, citing dozens of days violating air quality law. Still no fines for this polluting facility.

July, 2006 - Front page article,"Cattle emissions: Hazardous to health?" in the Adrian Daily Telegram (7/2/06) describes a pilot project under development for Hillsdale and Lenawee Counties to assess health impacts from CAFO facilities and land application, including a 4-page draft questionnaire for residents with exposure to CAFO emissions.
Excerpt from the Telegram article (full article here):
... A four-page complaint form has been developed for people who believe they may be affected by large livestock operations and liquid manure applied on surrounding farmland. Forms can be obtained from the Lenawee County Health Department by calling 264-5202.
   “This is the first time we've done something like this,” said Dr. Dean Sienko, Michigan's acting chief medical executive.
   Complaints about odors and pollution from the large dairies are required to go to Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Agriculture, he said. But those agencies do not evaluate human health issues that some residents are concerned about.
   “Looking at this as a physician and as chief medical executive for the state, I felt it's important we try to get some information on the type of symptoms and concerns people have,” said Sienko.
   I'm glad they're doing something,” said John Klein, a neighbor of one of the dairy operations south of Hudson in Hillsdale County.
   “It's not just an occasional odor,” Klein said. When the wind brings emissions from the nearby Vreba-Hoff dairy on U.S. 127 to his home, Klein said, it makes him physically ill.
   “For the last two weeks I couldn't open the windows without feeling headaches and getting sick,” Klein said. “The headaches are a reality. You open the window and it hits you,” he said. “Most people get up in the morning and look to see if its raining. I look to see which way the wind is blowing.”
   Klein, a leader in a local environmental group [ECCSCM] formed in response to development of the dairy operations, said he and others in the area have complained about a variety of symptoms for years. Because the source of the emissions is farms rather than industrial plants, he said, the state government has taken little notice.
   Seinko said the growing volume of complaints from people in the area helped convince him that more information is needed to understand what is happening.

June, 2006 - Monitoring in progress--Dissolved Oxygen levels plummet downstream from Vreba-Hoff.

April, 2006 - New Flevo CAFO must pay $42,000 in fines and costs, and must cease land application of manure in winter, as part of settlement of lawsuit after multiple manure discharges. See DEQ press release for more details.

April 19, 2006 - After 6 years, it's the same polluted air, the same degradation and contamination of water -- after 6 years! Where's the backbone, where's the will to clean up? or shut CAFOs down if they can't clean up?  Today, with massive manure applications, the pumping of multi-million-gallon waste pits, there's stench from Bakerlads draglining, east of facility; stench from Hoffland application at two locations, also Bruinsma. Winds are carrying stench from facilities as well: State Line Farms cited by DEQ for emissions yesterday, and reported again today; stench west of Vreba-Hoff 2 along Elm Rd.  Intense emissions from Vreba-Hoff 1 along Dillon Hwy -- burns eyes, sickly stench, "nauseating," "You can't live with this. This is hell." 

Also today (see photos below) two sites draining Vreba-Hoff 1 on Dillon Hwy tested extremely low (3.6mg/L) for Dissolved Oxygen, a serious violation of Michigan's water standard, which is 5.0mg/L or higher for DO. The water at another site on Elm Rd just west of Vreba-Hoff 2 was covered with a floating, slick brown film.

Durfee Creek Extension (still impaired, trashed, eutrophied), DO 3.6mg/L on 4-19-06

Clarke Dr
Clarke Drain (slimed, slick with a brown film) just west of Vreba-Hoff 2 facility on 4-19-06.

March 2006 - red water at Vreba-Hoff stream. What is it? South Medina Drain, a stream listed as "impaired" in 2004 after multiple manure discharges from Vreba-Hoff, looks worse than ever this month -- deep blood-red. See photo-sequence of this stream through many colors of contamination: red, yellow, brown, gray, black, 2002-2006.

Letters to Editor
, see full text,Toledo Blade, March 26, on CAFO threats to communities:

"Water is our basic beverage, not milk, and clean water, the issue. If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention." Gloria Green, Chairman, Natural Resources Clean Water Committee
League of Women Voters of the Perrysburg Area

"I have documented water pollution and health problems suffered by our most vulnerable rural citizens - the elderly, children, and the immune-compromised - from involuntary exposure to air emissions from CAFOs and liquid manure applications to fields. I have also observed numerous liquid manure discharges into our streams from CAFOs since 2000." Kathy Melmoth, R.N., full-time farmer, ECCSCM volunteer

March - again, and again, with thaw and spring rains, liquid manure flows and pollutes after application to frozen fields.  When will they learn?  We go through this year after year (check it out).  Liquid manure on frozen ground will do one thing -- run off -- on the surface, or through tile inlets. Either way, pollution flows to our streams. Email DEQ ( and say, we've had enough. Michigan should prohibit application of liquid manure to frozen ground. 
bales bales2
3-13-06 Mericam manure water running off field to county drain and Toad Creek after spring rain
MDA "solution" - 2 STRAW BALES !!  MDA staff wrote to ECCSCM, 3-14-06 (our emphasis): "The manure appliciation conforms to GAAMPs. I reviewed the sites along Seeley Road. I noticed a spot along Camden Road where puddled manure needed to be incorporated and an open drain along Seeley Road that needed straw bales (for runoff control) in case of a storm event."  This is the "high-tech" waste system that pollutes our air and contaminates our streams.

Feb 7, 2006 -Sierra Club releases documentary, Living a Nightmare: Animal Factories in Michigan, with local farmers and neighbors describing the degradation of water and air, the damage to rural economies, and the risk to public health.
flier click for more information and order form

February 1, 2006 - Michigan suit against Hoffland CAFO - formerly VanderHoff Haley Dairy - is settled (see DEQ press release). Hoffland will pay $20,000 in fines, and must cease land application of agricultural waste to snow or ice-covered soil when the waste cannot be injected or incorporated. The CAFO will also be required to install a press treatment system (liquid/solid separation) for the "stabilization of waste produced in the cow barns."

January 16, 2006 - State Line Farms cited again for air emisssions.


July - November, 2005 - following investigation of numerous air quality complaints over several months, DEQ cites State Line Farms for violation of the federal Clean Air Act and Michigan air pollution law (Rule 901 - "A person shall not cause or permit the emission of an air contaminant in quantities that cause injurious effect to human health, property, or the unreasonable interference with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property"). 9 inspections between July and November found "strong" or "very strong" odors, burning sensation in the nose, "objectionable hog waste odors," etc. State Line must report by Jan 6, 2006 on the causes of the violations and on remedial action taken to prevent reoccurence of emissions. State Line refused to accept Letter of Violation sent Nov. 10, 2005. TheLetter of Violation was finally hand-delivered on December 8, 2005.

Holidays, 2005 - Winter Waste Application
Why is this practice - CAFO dumping - still legal in Michigan?

It's started again, a foul winter ritual - the spraying of liquid manure from CAFOs on snow and frozen ground. This practice is "not recommended" in Michigan's Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs). But there's no penalty for doing it. Why not? With the first rain or first thaw, the waste flows off fields into streams.

Manure can't fertilize crops when there is no crop; it can't reach soils when the ground is covered with snow.  Spraying on snow and frozen ground serves one purpose only -- waste disposal. Dumping. It's free to CAFOs. It's costly and hazardous to the rest of us.
High bacteria counts downstream from manure-fields
Through November this year, CAFOs sprayed liquid waste on fields (see list of applications, stench alerts). On Thanksgiving, we had snowfall, then a few days later, 1.55 inches of rain.  Water samples downstream from manure-fields tested extremely high for E. coli bacteria, some sites more than 50 times the allowable level of 1,000/100 ml:

Tributary to Fisher Lake, 11-29-05, downstream from Vreba-Hoff - E. coli 22,000/100 ml
Wallace Drain to Hazen Creek, 11-29-05, downstream from New Flevo - E. coli 48,000/100 ml
Durfee Creek, 11-21-05, downstream from Vreba-Hoff - E. coli Too Numerous To Count 

Durfee Creek, November 2005. This stream is already on Michigan's list of "impaired" waters, after multiple manure discharges from Vreba-Hoff CAFO.

June 20 - Vreba-Hoff discharges manure AGAIN, into South Medina Drain, which was placed on Michigan's "impaired waters" list last year because of previous contamination from Vreba-Hoff.  Black manure water is discharging through field tiles, after pivot-irrigation of liquid manure on growing crop.  ECCSCM volunteer called DEQ hotline; DEQ took water samples.  Dissolved Oxygen is 0.5 mg/L, well below fish-kill level.  North Medina Drain is clear, South Medina Drain is grossly discolored, smells of manure. V-H resumed pivot irrigation in same location in late afternoon. ECCSCM took water samples for E. coli.  
June 23 - E. coli test results: 22,000/100ml on June 20; 32,000/100ml on June 21.
Medina 2Medina1 
manure water in South Medina Drain on June 20, 2005; water samples, 1 from North Medina Dr, 2 from South Medina Drain.

Vreba-Hoff pivot-spraying liquid manure near Ingall Hwy, June 20, 2005 - black water flows through tiles to South Medina Drain in Bean/Tiffin Watershed.

June 13 - DEQ, MDA documents reveal months of inaction on CAFO air violations (summary below)

            Chronology of Neglect - One CAFO's Bad Air - Winter 2004 to June 2005
                   (details from DEQ,MDA documents FOIAed by ECCSCM)

DEQ and MDA documents reveal a sad story of jurisdictional confusion over CAFO air emissions, leaving neighbors stuck in stench-- the sickness of pig stink-- for a year and a half. People called MDA, they called DEQ; nobody knew who was in charge, including the agencies. The consequence? -- inaction, and prolonged suffering of neighbors in an agricultural community.

Since the expansion of a swine CAFO near Morenci in Winter 2004 -- construction which was completed without using MDA's Siting guidelines -- neighbors have pleaded for help from MDA, DEQ, their local officials, Sen. Cameron Brown, and even Governor Granholm. The CAFO was built too close, much too close, to neighbors.

Finally, in a letter to the CAFO on June 13, MDA said so: "this facility does not meet the setback requirements of the Site Selection GAAMPSs."

So, now what? Well, of course, now it's there. In the neighbors' faces. One neighbor, who's lived in her farmhouse for 50 years, wrote last year to Gov. Granholm, "It is a terrible situation-- the odor from the hogs is nauseating. We have tried to get the Mich. Dept. of Ag to help -- they do nothing." Another letter, to Sen. Brown this February, said, "I don't deserve to be driven from my home."

During the last year, DEQ received at least 18 air complaints about the CAFO, investigated them, and often found emissions "distinct and objectionable." MDA also received several calls. MDA, interestingly, found no problem, not once, barely a "whiff," one reported, complaints "not verified." Cases closed.

This February, DEQ prepared a Letter of Violation to the CAFO citing multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act as well as Michigan's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, Rule 901. The letter, however, was never sent. Although the letter cited 9 complaints and 7 follow-up inspections in Oct, Nov, Dec 2004 and Feb 2005, all documenting "distinct, definite and often objectionable odors," MDA stepped in at the last minute, argued a new process required a hard-copy referral to DEQ, not just email, etc., etc., claimed jurisdiction over air emissions, and then -- did nothing.

Since February, MDA has taken no action. They waited and waited, told complainants the GAAMPs were voluntary, sent information to the CAFO about complying, retroactively, and then waited some more. When the CAFO finally submitted details about its facility, MDA wrote the June 13 letter and recommended biofilters as a "variance" to the setback requirements. The biofilters aren't a requirement. MDA simply reminded the CAFO: "in order for MDA to accept the proposed OMP [Odor Management Plan] for this new swine production facility, odor control biofilters or equivalent odor reduction technologies must be properly installed."

How much longer will the neighbors have to wait for clean air? A long long time, if the CAFO ignores MDA's suggestion. As it can. As it has. MDA has no clout -- they have guidelines, voluntary guidelines. MDA has no rules, no air monitoring equipment, no protocol for responding to health concerns.

How bad is it? Residents report headaches, nausea, the inability to go outside; one neighbor without air conditioning described stench so bad he had to shut the windows in terrible summer heat. One DEQ investigator driving by the CAFO with his asthmatic son had to leave the scene when the son required his inhaler. Healthy neighbors, but especially children and the elderly, vulnerable populations, continue to suffer the consequences of Michigan's squabbling agencies and the CAFOs' relentless emissions.

It is wrong, a violation of our deepest values, for us to turn away from the weakest and their suffering, for us to dismiss them, turn them back into their houses -- while we give the strongest, the most negligent, a free pass to foul the air.

April - MSU report details DNA study of Cryptosporidium, a pathogen that can cause serious diarrhea and sometimes death, which was found at extremely high levels in water samples from Rice Lake Drain at Haley Rd, a River Raisin tributary, immediately downstream from Hoffland (formerly VanderHoff Haley) Dairy CAFO. Tests showed an average concentration of 10,866 oocysts/100L, with a high of 49,900 on Dec. 6, 2004. A sample on Dec. 6 showed infectivity in cell culture.  DNA testing found "the Cryptosporidium sequence from the white tile into Rice Lake drain collected on 12/7/04 has the closest relationship to sequences of the bovine genotype" (see more on MSU findings)

April 18 - Sierra Club releases report on 66 Michigan CAFOs in 15 counties. ECCSCM member and Sierra Club Water Sentinel Lynn Henning documented proximity of CAFOs to drains, streams, wetlands, and connections to tile risers, catch basins -- all potential pathways of CAFO pollution. See final report and also spreadsheet with details on each facility.

April, 2005 - all CAFOs applying liquid manure. Air emissions, stench downwind is intense.
pivot irrigating liquid manure, New Flevo CAFO, 4-14-05

Feb. 18, 2005 - DEQ disapproves Vreba-Hoff's draft plan for wastewater treatment, saying it falls "far short" of what is required under the 2004 Consent Order. DEQ cites numerous insufficiencies, including no seal by a professional engineer, no phosphorous treatment as required, no transfer system description, no sand-separation component, no piping or control details, no description of how untreated waste will be applied, inadequate sampling parameters and plan, no quality assurance plan.

end of Jan-early Feb - winter mess & stench - CAFOs are spraying manure on snow & frozen ground, not a recommended practice. At the first thaw, you can picture it - liquid manure runoff to drains and streams.

Feb. 3, 2005 - Mericam CAFO spraying on snow, on sloping field, Territorial Rd

Michigan State University Violates Clean Water Act at Livestock Operations
Jan. 24 - DEQ cites MSU Beef Cattle Research & Teaching Center for illegal manure discharges leading to contamination of the Red Cedar River.  In a Notice Letter, Jan. 24, 2005, DEQ notes a lack of proper collection and storage for silage at the CAFO, resulting in silage leachate and contaminated stormwater at part of the MSU facility. In another area, "manure runoff flows to a catch basin...and a tile riser."  These structures are inlets for runoff through County Drains to the Red Cedar River.  DEQ orders MSU to apply for an MPDES permit and to prepare (finally -- why would MSU be last in environmental protection rather than first?) a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.