Big Pig, pollution, and poverty
As pigs were targeted as pork for profit, isolated areas throughout the United States were targeted for huge sow farms. These facilities, some up to 25,000 sows on one farm, were built in isolated areas for the benefit of bio-security. They were usually poor communities and sparsely populated. Resistance was challenged by those in the business community expecting to profit from the adventure.
What first affects the community is hardly noticeable. How these facilities and the manure are handled are not readily noticeable, thanks to the restrictive nature of “bio-security." No one can enter without permission, leaving the opportunity to make any observation minimal.
My first job in Indiana saw manure pumped to a field and discharged through long perforated plastic pipe. I asked, how do you know when enough has been applied? He said when he goes back at night and shines a flash light, it looks like a sea. This field has a stream channel through the middle.
The other farm had a lagoon overflowing. We actually took clods of dirt and placed them in low areas until it could be pumped. The B cell was suppose to be 15′ deep and our checking found it to be less than 5′ in areas, because of rock. There is a barrier required between rock and liquid manure to minimize the leaching in the cracks and crevices.
In Illinois the B cell was finished on top of a sand lens. I was called years later and told it never exceeds a certain static level and subsequently has never been pumped, even though thousands of gallons of manure transfer to it everyday. This is called the Piesio affect. When a conduit (sand lens) intersects with the lagoon and the lagoon fills, the hydraulic pressure forces the liquid manure out until it achieves the same elevation as ground water.
In North Carolina, sow farms that did not have storage beyond the shallow pits frequently overflowed the manholes and onto fields that had V channels cut every 300′, and discharged ultimately into the Abermarle Sound. When weather stopped land application, manure was hauled to the Nursery lagoon and dumped, surpassing the BOD limit and impeding treatment. When this was pumped, the containment 20′ away also went down, demonstrating the inability of the containment to hold its contents. When land applied, adequate agitation was not used; therefore, while traveling at the same speed and gpm, the lower part of the lagoon was applied very thick with no adjustments according to agronomic rates.
Down the road where employees drove past the lagoon everyday, it finally filled to the top and busted out, washing directly to a creek. The surface water from the facility was de singed to flow directly into the lagoon, for dilution water I suppose. This has no control, and as indicated, finally took it out. The field where manure is applied was planted with triticale in an attempt to use up the most nitrogen. Hundreds of round bales were shoved back in the trees and left. I was told the nitrates are so high it is toxic to animals and will kill them. This is hardly productive agriculture.
In Colorado the Ag Engineer discovered irrigating water on sandy soil was driving the nitrogen past the root zone and to stop immediately and report it to the State. The boss said to “pour it on” and no report was made. This was an attempt to drive it past the testing zone (10′) and in to the ground water.
When animals died by the row and people were frequently rushed to the doctor from hydrogen sulfied poisoning (700ppm). The General Manager would not allow a gas tester to be purchased saying, “it could implicate us.” 20 ppm is the legal limit and a tester is a requirement.
When 5 spills occurred in less than two weeks and none were reported, the answer given was he checked with another large operation in the State and asked if they ever had a spill and if so did they report it? the answer was yes they did and no they never report them. That was my answer. The State confirmed they had only one spill reported in 5 years. So much for Amendment 14. YOu can have a thousand pages of rules and if no one enforced them, it protects simply nothing.
Its less than 30′ to water and according to the maintenance manager dead pit holes were dug 22′ deep and filled with dead pigs. A city has their drinking water wells with 2500′ of this. When spills did occur near city wells, they were to be notified, which they weren’t.
In Iowa, land applicators travel at break neck speeds with small sweeps at or just below surface leaving liquid manure exposed after dragging large piles of stalks or bean stubble into balls and left across the field. Hardly subsurface injection and not much erosion protection from residue bunched up in piles.
The food bank is empty, emergency room in the red, Sheriffs department allowing drunk illegals out in the morning, saying they did not know their names until after they sobered up, so they by law have to let them go. I believe the cost to process them is more than most small communities can afford, but apparently driving drunk is tolerable. The schools have had to hire additional teachers for those not seeking English, and there are less neighbors complaining, according to last years statistics, and that’s because there are fewer neighbors. Since the local stores have went broke, you can now go South 20 miles or North 30, to, you guessed it, Wall Mart. We no longer have a local community. Community is tied together over hundreds of miles by the computer. There are little pockets of those remaining committed to getting it back and now have only like minded others for support.
What I have said is only the tip of the iceberg and yet I insist change does not advocate violating or worse “willfully,” according to OSHA, all the exploiting of others. If there is going to be change and regulations are in place to protect land, water, environment, and people in close proximity, then either enforcement, or those affected by lack of it, should see to it things are done safely and reliably.
And most importantly,those replacing the ones in the community that have left, make the transition hardly noticeable to statisticians. But in time, they become sick form exposure and ultimately leave to. Those to sick to work many times are told to go home, with doctors reports intentionally discarded, They often split up their own families and rely on friends or relatives to survive, Can’t continue medical treatment because they no longer have insurance. And sadly, some have to eventually go in to the same work, not having any other skills. This is not an anomaly but a daily occurrence. People involved in agriculture that has now become industrialized need the same protection as other industries. They are dying a slow death and leaving the balance of this disaster in their wake. Hardly a community builder when many are exploited for the sake of a few.
I can, however, tell you of independently owned and operated CAFO’s that are community friendly and strive to impact their environment, employees, and community at a minimum. They should be the rule rather than the exception and if enforcement pertained to all, it would be the rule. Some of these facilities are within 2 miles of town and have operated within the constraints of the law as well as good graces of the community. This is testament to the fact things can be done right and be profitable at the same time.
That being said, if you don’t like CAFO’s, then don’t buy their products. If you only are concerned with their impact, then fight for enforcement. That is a win win for everyone.
The land is the ultimate defining factor, It saves us all the arguing and emotional bantering. No facility can cost effectively operate outside the reasonable agronomic needs of adjoining land. When manure accumulation cannot be applied cost effectively on surrounding land, the facility begins to compromise. First will be allowing the lagoons to fill with sludge that becomes undigested solids due to the accumulated sludge encroaching on MTV, or minimum treatment volume. The problem then becomes exponential as the large organic fraction can no longer de-grade and breakdown. A long time commercial applicator said last year that on the facilities he is called to, over 95% are in a failed condition, and that is hardly an anomaly, but a tragedy. This creates a septic,toxic condition that allows pathogens and potentially viruses to thrive, affecting herd health as well as allowed to linger in the soil when not treated properly before being applied. The consequences of millions of gallons of excrement contained without treatment and then land applied is a disaster waiting to happen.
To sum it up i have seen good jobs leave the community and be replaced with jobs that are hard on health, both to the community and the employees. I have heard a female employee with children to feed ask, “if i get to sick to work is there supplemental income until i can get well enough to find another job?” And the answer was, “no.” Even the General Manager, who goes to church and went to Mexico to help in habitat for humanity would not help. But yet the local people are working in less that slave conditions. Slaves were well cared for because you had to buy them and to exploit their labor you had to take care of them. NOw we have those in the community that had no options. They work against their own health time clock hoping only to get the next check. When their health fails, so does the community, as their responsibilities now become the communities. While helping them is not as politically correct as featuring your participation of habit for humanity at Church next Sunday, it will restore yourself as much as them. Gosh, sounds like community again. Help if you can,
The most recognized commencement speech ever made was by Winston Churchill where he said, “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up,” and them sat down. This is what community does. It is not what your business is, but rather how you conduct it. We have a responsibility to ourselves as well as our children to see to it things are done right.
One last thing, In Colorado the same pipe distribution system that ties into several large water wells also is used to transfer millions of gallons of hog waste to various fields. This has only check valves (not back flow preventers) and they all had the check eroded away. If the last field man did not convey to the next one the importance of manually closing the valve in front of the pump, it can pump hog manure directly into the ground water at over 400 gpm. According to code, it is illegal, even with back flow preventers, to connect waste and water system together. This is a very important issues as it directly affects community in the most serious way each day.