EPA Promises To Better Monitor Factory Farms, Orders Two To Stop Discharging Manure In Our Waterways

In late May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promised to pay closer attention to all the factory farm manure that often winds up in our waterways.  As a result of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, charging that the agency needs to better monitor the livestock industry, the EPA agreed to propose a new rule to curb manure runoff, which poses a threat to sea animals as well as to human health. 


Yes, it took a lawsuit to convince the EPA to at least pledge to do something about the s*** in our water. The agency has long been criticized for allowing concentrated animal feeding operations to pollute our waterways, and they’ve promised to curb factory farm runoff  before–by allowing factory farm operations to police themselves.


Will this time be any different?


Judging by the EPA’s “new rule,” which is supposed to be proposed by May 25, 2011, and finalized by May 25, 2012, it doesn’t seem that way. The EPA again plans to rely on factory farms to provide the data they need—every five years. The farms will be expected to disclose information on their manure storage facilities, the amount of manure generated at the farm, and how the “excess manure” is disposed of, among other things.


In other words, they’re still planning to let the fox guard the henhouse.


However, there have been a couple of somewhat encouraging signs since the EPA pledged to better monitor factory farm pollution. Early this month, the EPA publicly ordered two Virginia farms, which the agency inspected in April, to stop discharging waste into the Shenandoah River –at least without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, as required by the Clean Water Act.


One farm, Turley Creek Farms, which confines approximately 100,000 chickens, was improperly storing large piles of uncovered chicken manure, and the EPA found evidence that “pollutants, including nitrogen and phosphorus, were discharged into Turley Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.” The other farm, Windcrest Associates LLC, which confines approximately 250 mature dairy cows, 275 heifers, and 22,800 turkeys, was also discharging nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants from animal manure into a tributary of the Shenandoah River and into the river itself.


Both farms, which are located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, were ordered to cease discharging pollutants into the water until after they obtain a Clean Water Act Discharge permit; and submit a compliance plan detailing their plans to comply with the Clean Water Act.


Now, I’m hardly thrilled that these and other farms can literally dump crap into our rivers as long as they get a permit, but, given the EPA’s track record, I’m glad the agency is at least doing something. Only time will tell if it will last—and if the EPA’s actions will actually get tougher. I hope so, but frankly, I have more faith in people like Lynn Henning, the Goldman Environmental Prize-winner who gathers water samples and uses aerial photography to help hold factory farms accountable for mucking up our rivers and streams.


But hopefully the EPA’s proposed rule, combined with Ms. Henning’s efforts, and the United Nations’ call for people to move toward a vegan diet in order to reduce pollution, curb climate change, and stop forest destruction, will make a difference for our planet, our health, and animals.  



Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago

I hope the EPA puts some punch behind this.

Lois K.
Lois K7 years ago

Had to vote "no." The EPA is nearly useless.

johan l.
paul l7 years ago

There is still over 50% of people who feel that the EPA's actions will not be enough.
Rather than call excrement manure, call it faeces and maybe more pressure can be put onto farmers!

valerie g.
valerie g.7 years ago

it's up to all of us who still eat meat to not eat cheap meat! cheap meat comes from factory farms. that includes all dairy products. please prioritize the well being of the earth, her animals, her environment, and YOUR BODY by buying locally and ORGANIC and speaking up for the rights of animals. we need to keep pushing to make sure humane practices are enforced. animals who sacrifice their lives for us deserve the BEST quality of life while they live. It produces the best products, and it is the least we can give them while they work, and die for us. The cycle of life and death is natural, factory farms and our toxic, pesticide and chemical ridden lifestyles is unnatural, and it is killing us. and yes, eat more vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits and less meat and dairy!

Linda Bishop
Linda McCaughey7 years ago

i remember when the epa had teeth. what happened?

Sonja T.
Sonja C7 years ago

Instead of monitoring these evil places why not shut them down????????

Katherine Maar
Katherine Maar7 years ago

How about the EPA gets rid of factory farms altogether? I guess it's a step in the right direction. Hopefully it will make an environmental difference. Unfortunately, it'll hardly make a difference to the animals.

Alberta G.

Very informative. thank you.

Al R.
Al D7 years ago

trying to tinker with such flawed system as a CONFINED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATION is like trying to get hilter to clean up his holocaust a little bit. the more time i read the many books on CAFOS like Foers "eating animals", study the web pages, look at videos of factory farms/slaughter on youtube.org, the scientific literature on HSUS.org- the more insane & horrific CAFOS are. I have become 97% vegan with great benefits to my health, weight, and energy levels. i only pray that all folks who love animals as i do join me and refuse to give meat and dairy producers another penny in support. 99% of all FDA approved products come from CAFOs, no matter what the "Happy farms" logos say or "United producers" concern/care logo says, or what the happy cows on a sun drenched pasture on a California Cheese commercial says. they are outright frauds. our regulators are doing nothing, just collecting their lush saleries, lush benifits and pushing papers around.WE tax payers are getting reamed. Meat and dairy associations are so powerful in our country that 11 states it is illegal for you to say anything bad about cafo products. oprah and lyman were sued costing them millions of dollars in legal fees to defend their first amendment right to free speech. where was the alcu? we thru care2 must stand up ourselves.OUR government will just set up a expensive regulatory branch to take taxpayers money while the regulators surf porn sites all day (SEC, madoff) Only God can help the animals in CA

Keegan Allen
Keegan Allen7 years ago

Always nice when a government agency promises to do the job they're supposed to.