More than 35,000 residents of Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and other states have signed a petition calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set strong limits on factory farm pollution to protect waterways across the country.
“More than 35,000 citizens in the Chesapeake Bay region and across the country have spoken out against factory farm pollution in our waterways,” said Meg Cronin, clean water advocate with Environment Maryland. “We can’t let corporate agribusiness treat the Chesapeake Bay and waterways around the country like their personal sewer.”
In August, the EPA announced that it would begin working on a national rule to limit manure pollution from factory farms, with a proposal due next spring. Earlier, in 2010, the EPA began critical work in the Chesapeake Bay region by setting an overall pollution reduction blueprint. As that blueprint is implemented, the agency should make sure factory farms sufficiently reduce the flow of manure, nutrients and pathogens into the Bay, said Cronin.
“I depend on clean water to feed the animals on my farm, and my neighbors depend on it for their crops,” said Will Morrow, a farmer and farm owner in Emmitsburg, Maryland. “I take great precautions to properly cycle the manure from my animals, but I know lots of other farmers who don’t. I just want to make sure that there is a strong industry standard for the farms that have the most potential to pollute our water.”
Manure in waterways causes a host of environmental and public health problems. The nitrogen and phosphorus in manure contribute to algae blooms that decay and consume oxygen in the water, a process which in Maryland leads to dead zones every summer in up to a third of the Chesapeake Bay. Manure also contains chemicals and pathogens, posing a public health risk.
“As a nurse, I worry about people getting exposed to harmful bacteria and viruses from factory farm pollution in the Bay,” said Dr. Kristen Welker-Hood. “It’s time for the EPA to protect Americans across the country from these threats so that we can enjoy swimming and boating in our beaches, rivers and lakes.”
According to the EPA, factory farms generate approximately 300 million pounds of manure per year across the country—three times the amount of waste generated by the U.S. human population. The EPA has also estimated that one quarter of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay comes from animal manure.