Some of our nation’s most prized waterways—such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River—as well as streams, estuaries and wells, are at risk from pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).These facilities generate tons of manure that can contain excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus; pathogens, including bacteria or viruses; sediment; antibiotics; and metals, such as copper or arsenic. All of these pollutants can threaten human health, water quality, and wildlife.
While diversified farms can apply manure to crops as fertilizer, the amount of manure that CAFOs generate often exceeds local crop needs. Studies show that the problems of excess manure – associated with the presence of large animal facilities – are apparent in numerous areas around the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with protecting our waters from such pollutants, but its regulations have not kept pace with the growth of CAFOs or the pollution they generate. The Clean Water Act’s current permitting process is rife with loopholes, allowing many facilities to operate with little or no oversight.