Stinky self-regulation

Businesses that have enough political clout to 'regulate themselves' usually, if not always, take puny measures only, and problems get ignored. See for instance, chemical plants anti-terrorism measures, and apparently agri-business.

Big ag's big stink | The Bush administration wants to let factory farms determine whether the animal excreta that ooze from their facilities into waterways should be regulated, say environmentalists, who argue that the plan, well, stinks.

Agriculture has long been a top source of water pollution in the United States, but in the past two decades the problem has grown dramatically with the proliferation of large-scale pork, poultry, beef and dairy facilities, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). From 2002 to 2005, the CAFO industry in the United States expanded by about 22 percent -- with substantially more animals per facility, and ever larger piles of their droppings.

Today these facilities are responsible for some 500 million tons of animal manure a year -- three times the waste that humans in this country produce, activists say. According to a 1998 report from the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, CAFO muck has fouled roughly 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states. More recent data show that 29 states have reported water contamination from these feedlots.

wait for it...

“The court required the EPA to bring clarity to some aspects of the 2003 rules; instead they've created more confusion and new loopholes,” says Michele Merkel, a former staff attorney in the EPA's enforcement division who now works for the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. The most worrisome loophole, she says, would allow CAFOs themselves to define what constitutes a polluting discharge and therefore decide whether a permit is needed at all.

Such flexibility flies in the face of the Clean Water Act, says Merkel, because the law prohibits all large-scale feedlots from discharging any traceable animal waste into nearby waterways and requires them to obtain permits for exemptions under certain circumstances, such as when there's runoff after a storm.

“The loophole basically renders the Clean Water Act meaningless when it comes to regulating the fecal discharge from CAFOs,” Merkel says. “It says to these massive facilities, 'Hey, figure out if you need a permit to pollute, and then come and get one.' It's appalling.”

Mmmmm, fecal matter in water supply, it's what's for breakfast...

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 7, 2006 4:34 AM.

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