Regional Groups Urge U.S. EPA to address CAFO-related impacts to the Western Lake Erie Watershed
Today, a coalition of 30 environmental, farm, grass-roots and other organizations sent the attached letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her to initiate urgent protective actions for Lake Erie, including declaring the western basin an impaired watershed.
These groups are urging the Administrator to address the harmful impacts of manure pollution by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on the Lake. CAFOs are large-scale agricultural facilities that confine hundreds to thousands of animals, or millions of poultry, in industrial environments and they generate massive amounts of nutrient-rich animal waste.
CAFOs are a relatively new, but largely unregulated, source of agricultural nutrient pollution in the Western Basin of Lake Erie. The CAFO industry has expanded rapidly in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana during the past two decades. Every year, CAFOs are increasing in number and size which means they are also generating significantly more waste and disposing it over more limited areas.
“Ohio submitted a Nutrient Reduction Strategy Report to U.S. EPA which established that effective manure management is critical to see water quality improvements and measurable reductions in nutrient loadings.” said Vickie Askins, spokesperson for the Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance. “However, recent legislative efforts in Ohio have exempted CAFOs from new restrictions and have also failed to close existing loopholes in State laws for CAFOs.”
This coalition believes the drinking water crisis in Toledo should have been a wake-up call to the potential impact massive amounts of nutrient-rich animal waste pose to the safety of Lake Erie. Consequently, the aforementioned groups believe taking a regional approach is imperative because of the cumulative impact CAFO waste in all three states is having on the western Lake Erie basin.
“This is not just a Ohio problem, because a large amount of livestock waste is produced and spread in the Michigan and Indiana portions of this watershed, too. While different steps are being taken to address nutrient loadings in Lake Erie, this is a necessary and important step towards uniformity and accountability within the entire Western Lake Erie basin” said Pam Taylor of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan.
Therefore, this coalition has recommended banning the winter application of manure, requiring valid nutrient management plans for all CAFOs, and establishing numeric nutrient standards for Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. These regional measures should be instituted immediately.
Barbara Sha Cox, spokesperson for the grass-roots Indiana CAFO Watch, said “This is a vital step in protecting the water. Clean water should be the goal of all residents and farmers. Our most valuable resource must be preserved for the future generations.”