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Region 5 Stops Pollution from CAFO Manure

National Agriculture Information


Summer 2006
Public health and aquatic biological communities protected through compliance assistance and compliance assurance actions

Biologists recently concluded that Red Run Drain is on the road to recovery. For more than 10 years, the 8-mile long creek contained manure and farm wastewater. The creek had been on Michigan's list of impaired waters as late as 2004.

Recovery started only after the owner put in collection and storage devices for the manure and wastewater created by his 925 dairy cows. The owner did this to comply with a consent decree that settled separate lawsuits filed by EPA and a group of citizens. The owner was also able to stop putting manure on crops every week, even when the soil was frozen or covered with snow. This is important because snowmelt flushes manure directly into streams and frozen soils do not absorb water or manure.

Yet another success story is EPA's work with a company that builds dairies for immigrants, primarily from the Netherlands. Region 5 inspectors found that engineering design or construction flaws caused numerous dairies to unlawfully discharge manure or wastewater. Other violations were a result of poor management. In at least one case, the pollution was fouling the water supply for a community of 10,500 people.

Administrative orders against many of the dairies have helped reduce pollution, and Region 5 has worked with dairy owners to help them act voluntarily, avoiding enforcement actions. Now, the company and its engineering consultant are working with Region 5 to ensure that plans for future dairies are drawn to meet EPA's expectations.

Concerned citizens helped EPA head off a potential problem in Wisconsin's Black Earth Creek, one of the nation's top trout streams according to Trout Unlimited. When a group of people started legal proceedings against a dairy owner, EPA and Wisconsin officials investigated. The dairy owner corrected the problem before any harm came to the creek.

Despite efforts by the state of Michigan, the owner of another dairy did not make the needed infrastructure changes to reduce pollution going into the Grand River. Region 5's administrative order moved the owner to action.

For Indiana's Elkhart River, the problem is pigs, not cows. After EPA filed an administrative order against a swine operation, the owner sold the operation. The new owner soon informed Region 5 that the problem had been eliminated.

These are just a few of the success stories EPA has in reducing agriculture-related pollution. Experts from Region 5 and its state partners continue working with agriculture to help reduce polluted farm runoff and improve water quality throughout the Midwest.

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