Scripps Howard Washington, June 9, 1998
Imagine a train so long that it circles the Earth 12 and a half times --
6.7 million boxcars full of manure.
This, says the Sierra Club, is the amount of livestock waste dumped in
the United States every year. But instead of being hauled away or
sanitized, much of it is pumped raw into open cesspools from which it is
seeping into the nation's ground water and spilling into rivers.
The Sierra Club called Monday for a moratorium on new "hog factories"
and "chicken factories" until the federal government starts enforcing
laws to control pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations
that have sprung up across rural America.
The numbers of farm animals and their volume of waste today is
overwhelming, say environmental groups.
There are more chickens processed annually in the United States than
there are people in the world -- 7.6 billion chickens vs. 6 billion
humans. There are more turkeys in the United States than Americans --
300 million of the big birds, 269,864,312 people. Plus there are 103
million hogs and 58 million beef cattle.
They all produce some 2.7 trillion pounds of manure in a single year.
The growing problem today, according to environmentalists, is that
agribusiness is squeezing tens of thousands of animals together in
factory-like settings that produce so much waste that the land cannot
Kathryn Hohmann, director of the Sierra Club's environmental quality
program, told a news conference, "In one Indiana town public health
officials confirmed that water contaminated by livestock units resulted
in six women experiencing miscarriages."
Ken Midkiff of Sierra's Missouri chapter complained that of the 22
largest animal factories in his state, only two have valid operating
permits, although all are required to have them.
Albert Midoux, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety
inspector, said, "Streams today in Missouri are little more than open
sewers. People are getting sick with respiratory problems. Even the
flies are sick."
Bill Berry of Oklahoma said a single chicken factory upstream from his
farm is turning out 1.6 million gallons of poultry waste a day and
continuing malfunctions there have made Honey Creek, which runs through
his land, a dead stream. His well water "is unsafe for human consumption
according to EPA."
The Sierra Club insists the problems could be solved if Washington would
strictly apply the provisions of the Clean Water Act. But says Hohmann,
"The law has not been enforced for 25 years."
The Sierra Club and family farmers that it brought to Washington have
been visiting members of Congress for the past week, lobbying for better
enforcement and a moratorium on new animal factories.
And the response they are getting?
"What I'm giving you right now," said Midkiff. "A blank stare."
By JOHN LANG, Scripps Howard News Service
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