By Paul J. Sniadecki, MLSA Board Member
This MLSA newsletter has been reporting on the process and results for the new, 5 year National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Michigan’s approximately 250+ Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), sometimes referred to as “factory farms” by some environmental groups. We have been concerned that these farms manage millions of gallons of waste with the potential to adversely impact ground and surface water so important to riparians state-wide. We also were pleased to report that the 2020 NPDES Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations General Permit, effective April 1, 2020, made a some long-overdue improvements to the permit that expired on March 31, 2020.
However, the group Great Farms Great Lakes (a coalition of national environmental organizations including Food & Water Action, Sierra Club, and Public Justice) now claims the new General Permit for CAFO’s did not go far enough and remains largely ineffective in actually controlling water pollution. The group alleges the permit ignores the science concerning polluted watersheds and allows too many exceptions and get-out-of-jail-free cards for waste application in months where the freeze-thaw cycle is unpredictable. It also leaves the door wide open for manure-to-energy schemes. Further, they claim that Michigan continues to fall short of compliance with the US EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for pollutants allowed in designated impaired waters, and does not put an end to the questionable practice of factory farm biogas production.
The matter is complex and is not isolated to Michigan. Alan Guebert, author of the nationally syndicated column Food And Farm recently wrote a column titled “Avoiding Another Century of Degraded Water” wherein he described the CAFO situation in Iowa. His column was in favor of better CAFO controls in Iowa and was prompted by an Op-Ed in the Des Moines Register. That paper had reported such findings as: “In 2019, Iowa’s streams carried away a billion pounds of nitrogen and 50 million pounds of phosphorus.”
Do you want to understand more about CAFOs and your water? The MLSA Spring Webinar series has a Session on CAFOs this Friday April 24, 2020 at 1:00pm. It is the same session we had hoped to hold at our 2020 MLSA Conference that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic emergency. There are details about the joining this session in the section above.