The Assateague Coastal Trust, a Maryland-based environmental group, has just filed a federal district court lawsuit against Perdue Farms and Berlin, Md.-based Hudson Farm—an 80,000-bird Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) which raises chickens for Perdue—for allegedly polluting the Chesapeake Bay with manure-contaminated runoff.
According to the group, Hudson Farm is discharging water with high concentrations of harmful bacteria, including fecal coliform and E. coli, into the Chesapeake Bay, a violation of the federal Clean Water Act and state regulations. The group’s complaint is based partly on the results of water samples collected from ditches that flow from the farm into the Franklin Branch of the Pocomoke River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
Among other things, the Assateague Coastal Trust wants the court to enjoin the defendants from discharging pollutants unless it results from a “25-year 24-hour rainfall” and to order the farms to pay civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for violations starting Oct. 30, 2009.
In its press release, the Assateague Coastal Trust points out that “large-scale factory farm facilities in Maryland and other states nationwide produce and recycle a significant amount of waste. As a result of discharges from manure stockpiling, these CAFOs pollute drinking and recreational water supplies by fouling rivers, lakes, streams and underground aquifers with untreated manure.”
If that sounds familiar to you, it might be because, in August, I wrote a post explaining that Tyson Fresh Meats, the world’s largest beef and pork supplier, was fined $2 million for pumping animal waste into the Missouri River. In the post, I pointed out that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, chicken, hog, and cattle excrement has polluted at least 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.
According to a December 2009 federal grand jury indictment, House of Raeford Farms, a poultry company that “processes” chickens and turkeys in eight plants in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana. and Michigan, knowingly pumped untreated wastewater into Raeford’s sewage plant. The treatment system at the House of Raeford processing plant reportedly couldn’t handle the 1 million gallons of wastewater produced daily.
While the meat industry should be held accountable for mucking up our waterways, meat-eaters must also share in the responsibility for cleaning up our planet. As Liane Curtis, a staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, part of the Assateague Coastal Trust, says, “It is essential for everyone to take responsibility to reduce the impacts associated with uncontrolled management of manure and other fertilizers…We need to stop avoidable, illegal pollution from all sources – including industrial agriculture.”
Everyone can help do this simply by eating more vegetarian foods. If you haven’t done so already, consider pledging to be vegan for at least 30 days.
Assateaque Coastal Trust