March 22, 2019

Michigan Environmental and Social Justice Groups Call for a Ban on Industrial Agriculture Polluting Practices

For Immediate Release — March 20, 2019 
Contact: Rebecca Wolf, 202-683-2507,
                Mike Berkowitz, 517-999-1305,

The Great Farms Great Lakes Coalition, including Public Justice, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Food & Water Watch, laud proposed legislation to protect the state’s drinking water, sustainable family farms, and rural communities.
Lansing — State legislators introduced a bill today that would ban disposing of manure, fertilizer, and waste from livestock operations on frozen or snow-covered soil. Senator Rosemary Bayer and Representative Kevin Hertel introduced the bill — Senate Bill 247and House Bill 4418 — which would protect valuable state water resources from contamination. 

Michigan has close to 300 industrial-scale livestock facilities which, depending on the species, can house up to millions of animals that produce enormous amounts of waste — a toxic slurry of manure, chemicals, pathogens and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. The nitrogen and phosphorus — especially from large-scale dairy operations — feed algae blooms like the one that poisoned drinking water for Toledo and southern Michigan in 2014. This toxic manure runs into the sources of drinking water.  

"There are a lot of threats to water quality in Michigan and the solutions aren't always obvious, but in the case of harmful algae blooms, we know one thing we can do immediately to address the problem," said Gail Philbin, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter director. "A total ban on the practice of applying waste to frozen or snow-covered ground, with no exceptions, will stem a significant source of nutrients that feed the algae blooms that compromise water quality in Michigan every year." 

“Michiganders understand that applying manure to frozen or snow-covered ground is a bad way to treat your neighbors,” said Jessica Culpepper of Public Justice. “Factory farms do it to make an extra buck at the expense of the state’s waterways, and the safety of its people. With the introduction of this bill, the people’s representatives have an opportunity to ensure corporations operating in Michigan are responsible to those who use its waters.”

“Enough is enough,” said Rebecca Wolf of Food & Water Watch. “Allowing factory farms to dump manure on frozen ground where it almost immediately makes its way into rivers, streams and lakes is a ridiculous giveaway to this polluting industry – at the expense of our drinking water. It’s time for Michigan legislators to take a stand and protect the people of Michigan, the Great Lakes, and drinking water from the toxic pollution generated by factory farms.”

On April 17th, members from groups across Michigan will gather at the State Capitol to pressure legislators to take bold action on agricultural pollution by passing this legislation.


March 6, 2019

Expansion of Barry County Industrial Dairy with Violations History Goes Unchallenged by MDEQ

State agency won’t act on community concerns about facility adding 900 animals and generating 5,402,597 additional gallons of manure

March 6, 2019
Media Contact:, 616-805-3063 

Lansing, MI—The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has allowed an industrial dairy operation in Barry County to expand by 40% despite an illegal discharge of waste into West Gilkey Lake in 2015 that led to a fine and consent order. More than four dozen comments were submitted to the MDEQ last fall objecting to the proposed addition of 900 dairy cows by Prairie View Dairy LLC, a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Prairieville Township. In addition to past environmental violations, comments cited many other concerns, including:
  • Significant risk to Crooked Lake and other waters based on  CAFO’s large storage volumes, minimal buffering area, and close vicinity to lakes and wetlands of high value for habitat and fishing
  • Potential for high nitrate levels in drinking water wells
  • Limited fields available to spread waste
  • Need for increased monitoring to ensure Prairie View's waste management practices do not threaten surrounding lakes and land.
Despite the community’s concerns, in MDEQ’s Responsiveness Summary issued four months after the close of comments, the agency claimed it did not consider such a massive expansion and increase in the production of untreated livestock wastes by almost 5.5 million gallons per year to be significant enough to warrant reconsideration of the facility’s permit conditions. Prairie View is covered under a Michigan General CAFO National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit instead of an individual permit, which could include stricter requirements for monitoring, reporting and design of the facility.

“Gov. Snyder may be gone, but the legacy of his MDEQ and its approach to favoring polluters lives on,” said Gail Philbin, director of Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter. “You see it in Michigan’s struggling rural communities and compromised waterways, which are substantially less protected from the public health threat of hundreds of polluting factory farms that operate with impunity across the state.”

The increase at Prairie View means it will generate 27,610,432 gallons of waste per year, an annual increase of 5,402,597 gallons in a lake-filled region of the state already saturated with CAFOs and animal waste.  Across Michigan, animal waste from nearly 300 CAFOs frequently makes its way into waterways, leading to a host of environmental and health problems. 

Manure feeds the algae blooms that plague our inland waters and was a key factor in the growth of the toxic algae that poisoned drinking water for Toledo and southern Michigan in 2014. Water and soil pollution can occur at any point in a dairy operation, including from over-application of waste to fields of manure slurry containing untreated feces, urine, disease-causing bacteria, anti-biotics, and hazardous chemicals such as ammonia and methane. 

Sierra Club has been at the forefront of battling CAFO pollution in Michigan for nearly three decades. To learn more, visit

For more information about CAFOs and what you can do to fight back, email