Plan to contain waste is full of unhealthy
Detroit Free Press
Under pressure from the federal government, the state
has finally developed a regulation plan for large animal
operations, the factory farms that hold hundreds or thousands
of pigs, chickens and cows in close quarters.
The plan has about as much chance of stopping the animals'
feces from getting into rivers and lakes as the piece
of newspaper you're holding. Basically, the farms get
a permit by asking for one. They have until September
2005 to do that, and more time to write their plan for
actually managing the animal waste. No sampling is required
to monitor nearby drains or streams to ensure the plan
is working. In other words, it's the sickening status
quo, dressed up in paperwork.
A big factory farm puts out as much urine and feces
every day as a small town. The mess is hosed out of barns
into a lagoon, and the liquefied result is sprayed on
fields. Improperly built lagoons can leak underground.
Fields can get doused with more liquid manure than they
can handle -- and the manure either gets swept off with
the next rain or works its way quickly through the soil
to underground drains and out into the nearest stream.
With the waste products comes the constant threat of
E. coli contamination. Plus factory farms often use antibiotics
to quell infection among closely quartered animals, as
well as hormones to speed growth. Much of that gets excreted,
and microscopic bits go wherever the liquid manure does;
if not contained, they'll eventually reach the Great Lakes.
The state Department of Environmental Quality will hold
hearings today on the permit plan, take comments through
Dec. 2, and put the system into effect Jan. 1. That's
pretty fast action on a plan the DEQ has supposedly been
working on all year.