The U.S. EPA has failed to control pollution from factory farms and has also been sluggish in determining risks to human health from huge concentrated animal-feeding operations, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. In recent years, the GAO said, consolidation in the livestock industry has spawned more and more factory farms that have also expanded in size; now, packing some 800,000 hogs or 140,000 cattle onto one property is not uncommon. Such a massive concentration of livestock, the report said, produces more waste in a year than the city of Houston. However, unlike Houston, the farms typically don’t treat the waste and instead it sits around in huge manure lagoons emitting air pollutants like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide until it’s dumped on neighboring fields as fertilizer or released into waterways. EPA is responsible for regulating all that waste, but so far the agency hasn’t put a cap on the amount of air pollution the farms can emit, and in December, the agency actually proposed eliminating a rule that requires farms to report their excessive emissions to authorities.
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