For release on: November 11, 2011

For more information contact:

Tim Maloney (Hoosier Environmental Council) at 812-369-8677 or tmaloney@hecweb.org

Bowden Quinn (Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter) at 317-695-3046 or bowden.quinn@sierraclub.org

Barbara Sha Cox at 765-962-2184

Water Pollution Control Board’s CFO Rules Leave Public Health and Indiana Waters at Risk

INDIANAPOLIS – Environmental and citizen groups are criticizing new rules for construction and operation of Confined Feeding Operations (CFOs) adopted by Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Water Pollution Control Board (WPCB). During its monthly meeting on Nov. 9, WPCB also adopted new standards for the land application of manure produced by these industrial livestock facilities.

The groups, which include the Hoosier Environmental Council, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, Indiana CAFO Watch, and Citizen’s Action Coalition, contend the new rules fail to provide adequate protection for public health, water quality, and affected communities. Before the November WPCB meeting, the groups called for stronger standards than those proposed, and greater transparency in decision-making and record keeping.

Though these issues have all been raised during previous hearings and public comment periods, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which drafted the rules, failed to make needed improvements. WPCB approved the rules over the groups’ objections.

“The new rules still allow CFO operators to keep records on the farm, rather than allowing the public access to the information,” says Bowden Quinn, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter. “Residents who live near an operation, or places where manure is land applied, have the right to know what is happening to that manure – when it is moved, where it is applied, and how much is coming into their communities.”

While the new rules offer some improvements over existing regulations, they still fall short in several key areas. In order to protect public waterways, drinking water resources, and Hoosier health, the new rules should include the following:

  • Contain strong setbacks from residences and waterways,
  • Prohibit construction and land application in floodplains and sensitive karst areas,
  • Provide public access to information about these facilities, and adequate notification of applications for permits and the opportunity to comment.

“By siting a CFO in karst terrain, underground waters are at great risk,” says Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “Because karst systems are very sensitive and vulnerable to contamination, the probability for these waters to become polluted by animal waste is extremely high. Without any mandatory requirement for ground water monitoring systems, the public won’t even know if and when the aquifers have become contaminated.”

“The setbacks in the rules are not sufficient to protect schools, churches, public buildings, and private homes,” said Barbara Sha Cox, Randolph County resident and third generation family farm owner. “Farmers and rural residents need protection for their property rights and quality of life. The health issues related to water pollution are a deep concern that was not addressed by the adoption of these rules.”

“When an industrial farm is proposed in a community it is only natural for people to have concerns and questions. Public meetings should always be held in these places to allow citizens to ask questions and gather information, as well as join with others who share their concerns. The new rules give too much discretion to the IDEM commissioner as to whether or not a public hearing will be held, further eroding the public’s right to know about possible environmental and public health threats,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition.

There are nearly 2,000 CFOs and CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in the state of Indiana, producing hogs, dairy cattle, chickens, ducks and turkeys. A large operation can produce as much waste as a small town. Most of the animal waste from these operations is applied, untreated, to farm fields as fertilizer. The animal manure contains pathogens and nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. When runoff occurs, the farms contribute to dangerous algae blooms in local lakes, and to biological damage in bodies of water as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

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