Thursday, February 08, 2007

Shit Hitting Fan: Public Health Disaster in the Making

Two Vreba Hoff dairy animal factories in Lenawee County are in crisis mode, trying to prevent a massive overflow and a breech of their numerous sewage pits. Over the holidays, Vreba Hoff sprayed, spread and dumped raw sewage for days. All of these activities violated state law and a consent judgment levied against the facility for 75 previous pollution violations.

Until the temperature dropped, ditches in the area were running black with the waste. Frozen sewage now covers area fields and will flow into waterways as soon as temperatures rise. The facility is now dumping waste into a huge, new, unlined and unauthorized sewage pit. This illegal lagoon adds one more source of contamination in an area that already contains more than 47 sewage lagoons, containing approximately 150 million gallons of untreated animal waste.

The DEQ has once again filed suit against Vreba Hoff. Yet, as we await the judge’s decision on actions Vreba Hoff must take to stop the flow of sewage, more than 60 other animal factories in Michigan may also be in crisis mode, with overflowing sewage lagoons. Sewage spreading has been reported in Hillsdale, Lenawee and Gratiot counties. Many more animal factories may also be endangering public health by spreading raw sewage on frozen and snow covered ground.

There are more than 200 “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFOs) or animal factories in Michigan – and more are coming all the time. Because the Right to Farm Act exempts animal factories from most environmental laws, the operators feel they can pollute without consequence. In fact, none of the actions that citizens or the state have taken have stopped the gross endangerment of our air, water and public health by animal factory polluters. Legislation is desperately needed to stop the proliferation of animal factories in Michigan until the state enacts regulations that protect public health and Michigan's water based tourism industry.

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