Water quality has been a persistent problem with factory farms or CAFOs, in spite of claims that each new manure management technology and strategy will prevent water pollution. The “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and elsewhere continue to spread, and industrial agriculture is the major documented source of pollution. However, water quality becomes a matter of general public concern, rather than just an environmental issue, wherever pollution from factory farms threatens the safety of drinking water.
The public health risks posed by water polluted by livestock manure are essentially the same as those posed by human sewage. Many of the same chemicals and biological organisms that pose health risks from exposure to untreated human sewage also pose risks to human health from exposure to raw untreated hog sewage.
Raw untreated hog sewage generates over 150 gases, many of which are harmful, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, plus another 150 toxins. The animal waste from 2,500 hogs in a confinement feeding operation, the minimum size to be classified as a CAFO, is equivalent to the human waste from a municipality of 8,000 to 10,000 people.
There are logical reasons for requiring sophisticated, multi-stage waste treatment systems whenever 8,000 to 10,000 people choose to residence in close proximity and form a municipality. These same reasons raise legitimate public concerns when the feces and urine from animals raised in CAFOs is being stored and spread untreated on farmland. The chemical and biological wastes can seep into groundwater to pollute the wells of rural residents and can run off fields into streams that provide drinking water for municipalities on their way to oceans. A cow produces approximately 18 times the waste of one human being. That means a CAFO with 4,000 cows produces the waste equivalent of a city of 72,000 people.
Defenders of industrial agriculture claim that operators of CAFOs are responsible stewards of the environment. They extoll the virtues of traditional independent family farmers in their commitment to caring for the land and caring about the well-being of their neighbors. Even if this is true, it is simply not possible to manage the concentration of manure associated with large-scale confinement animal feeding operations without sophisticated waste treatment facilities.
See JOHN IKERD tab: Twenty Responses to Defenders of CAFOs” for additional thoughts.
1) It is important that all water is tested and monitored often! https://wdez.com/2022/08/16/portage-county-farm-ordered-to-install-monitoring-wells-for-nitrates/