May 6, 2015

DEQ Livestock Factory Permit Change: Small Change in Nutrient Pollution of Lake Erie and Michigan Waters

Contact: Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372
Lynn Henning, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project,
Pam Taylor, ECCSCM,

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced a change to water quality permits for livestock factories, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that takes a small step toward addressing massive nutrient pollution entering Michigan’s waterways, in particular Lake Erie. Farmers that receive waste from CAFOs in January, February or March must follow the same restrictions as permitted CAFOs regarding application of wastes to fields.

Phosphorous pollution from agriculture, including CAFO wastes, contributes to the deadly growth of blue green algae (cyanobacteria), which last summer caused the shutdown of drinking water to Toledo, Ohio, and surrounding communities after toxins they produced entered the water system.  The Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), the Sierra Club and Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) issued the following statements on the DEQ’s permit change:

“MI DEQ's new permit includes one revision that imposes a few restrictions on CAFOs that manifest, give or sell, waste to others. Unfortunately, Michigan has not stepped forward to protect Lake Erie by prohibiting all manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground, as recommended by the International Joint Commission and many scientific studies. As ECCSCM has documented for years, manure still runs off those fields in sun, thaw, rain, and spring melt, and still drains through surface inlets to tiles, which flow to streams, and on to Lake Erie.” Pam Taylor, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan

“The Snyder Administration’s DEQ is very slowly beginning to acknowledge that voluntary programs for controlling the massive amounts of pollution from animal factories are not working to protect the Great Lakes or downstream communities.  While we appreciate this first, small step, we are eager to see the state get serious about protecting public health and our waters, and require these massive operations to be regulated like the industrial scale operations they are.”  Anne Woiwode, Conservation Director, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

"The new permit standard is only as good as its implementation and enforcement.  We urge DEQ make good on its responsibility to protect Michigan waters by better regulation of the millions of gallons of untreated waste produced by industrial confinement operations and protect Michigan waters." Lynn Henning, field coordinator, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

posted May 6, 2015