Thursday, October 9, 2008

GAO Report on pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report finding that some livestock farms produce more raw waste than cities the size of Houston and Philadelphia. According to the AP story, the report also found that federal regulators are failing to control air and water pollution from the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or assess the health risks from the large quantities of manure they produce. Moreover, using USDA data for large farms that raise animals as a proxy for CAFOs, the report noted that the number of these operations increased by about 230 percent, from about 3,600 in 1982 to almost 12,000 in 2002.

A copy of the report's highlights is available here and a full copy of the report is available here.

1 comment:

Peter Maier said...

Farmers are used as red herrings by the EPA for its own failure to implement the Clean Water Act, as it was intended. The Clean Water Act was never implemented and EPA blames farmers for pollution (CAFO’s and agricultural runoff), causing eutrophication and consequently dead zones, while cities still are allowed to dump the same pollution (nutrients) in our open waters. EPA still allows cities to use open waters as urinals, in spite of the fact that the goal of the Clean water Act was to eliminate (100% treatment) all water pollution by 1985.

The reason? Simple, but also very embarrassing!
EPA, like the rest of the world, used an essential pollution test incorrect and the pollution (now called nutrients) caused by nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste is ignored, while nitrogenous (urine and proteins) waste like fecal waste exerts an oxygen demand, but in all its forms is a nutrient (fertilizer) for algae and aquatic plants.

In 1984 EPA acknowledge the problems with this test, but in stead of correcting this test (so we finally would be able to evaluate the true performance of such facilities and determine what their effluent waste loading on open waters would be), EPA allowed an alternative test and officially lowered the goal of the CWA from 100% treatment to a measly 35% treatment, without even informing Congress, as apparently the media also did not understand what was going on.

But who cares, this is a technical issue and for that you have to trust the experts, who clearly in this case prefer the status quo. If you like to know more you can visit my website and in the Technical PDF section read a description of the BOD test and the consequences if you apply the test as still is applied.