ALDF Speaks Out Against Factory Farm Pollution at Washington Board of Health HearingPosted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 11, 2014
Today, Washington’s Board of Health is holding a hearing regarding the impacts of animal agriculture on public health and the environment. ALDF, along with several environmental groups, is speaking at the hearing to urge the Board to hold factory farms accountable for their role in polluting the state water supply.
Thousands of animals are confined in crowded and filthy conditions on factory farms in Washington where they are forced to stand in their own waste for their entire lives. These conditions not only lead to unimaginable animal suffering, but also contribute to the spread of disease, endangering both animal and human health. These thousands of animals also create an enormous amount of waste—which then goes untreated and leaks into ground and surface water.
For example, Washington has around 500 dairies, containing 200,000 cows who produce 20 million pounds of manure each day. This untreated manure is kept in unlined lagoons or is spread across fields. This waste then runs into surface and groundwater, polluting streams and aquifers with nitrates and E.Coli. In fact, the EPA has determined that the nitrate pollution of drinking water in the Lower Yakima Valley is the result of these industrial animal farms. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals fed to the animals on these farms also contaminate the drinking supply. Water pollution from factory farms is a well-established risk to public health.
The Washington State Board of Health has the legal authority to promulgate rules to protect residents from the health hazards posed by manure from factory farms. ALDF is asking that the Board revise the regulations regarding the keeping of animals on concentrated animal operations to include specific and enforceable requirements for managing the spread of animal manure.
The Board of Health must act on this urgent matter, as neither the Washington Department of Ecology nor the Department of Agriculture is sufficiently regulating water pollution from factory farms. In fact, the Department of Ecology is charged by the federal Environmental Protection Agency with protecting the state waters under the Clean Water Act. However, the Department has so far ignored this duty and has required the federally mandated water pollution permit from only 1% of factory farms in the state.
It is imperative that Washington’s state agencies regulate the pollution coming from factory farms. Until then these facilities will continue to put both animal and human health at risk.
Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.