STATE WIDE--Much of the state’s pollution in rivers and streams comes from large hog farms, says a report that came out last week, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The Act, which was made law in 1972, promised cleaner water by 1983, which for the most part, didn’t come to fruition.
“The state has more than 24,000 miles of rivers and streams which are impaired by pollution in a way that makes them unsuitable for swimming or other kinds of contact recreation in the water at least some of the time,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, and co-author of the report.
LISTEN: Eric Schaeffer talks the Clean Water Act and Indiana
Indiana is number one for pollution of rivers and streams, in terms of mileage, said the report. But, Schaeffer said the state is doing some things to help.
“You have a lot of miles identified as unsuitable for swimming because the state of Indiana does more to get out and evaluate the conditions of its waters than many other states,” he said. “One thing the state’s doing, which I think is really good, is they’re starting to increase the number of advisories they put out to let people know when the water in their area isn’t really safe for swimming.”
But, where the state is failing is in the amount of pollution, much of it caused by water runoff from the large hog farms, said Schaeffer.
He said hogs put out ten times more waste than humans and with some of the farms having a population of 20,000 hogs, that’s a lot of manure, and way more than the farms can use for fertilizer.
“All that extra manure that can’t be taken up by crops eventually makes its way to the water. That’s why you see algae blooms. That’s why water becomes unsafe for swimming.”
Schaeffer said 20,000 hogs equals a city of 200,000 people, without a sewage treatment system, and with nowhere to put most of the manure.
“It can get kind of gross,” he said, even while explaining the situation in scientific terms.
A statement from Indiana Pork, representing hog farms in Indiana, refutes that.
“Recent media coverage insinuates that Indiana pork farmers are taking advantage of some sort of loophole in permitting when constructing barns. There’s no such loophole. If a farm discharged manure directly from a barn it would require a special kind of permit under the CWA known as an NPDES permit,” read the statement.
The organization said activists site livestock farms as a source of river pollution to “illicit a reaction”.
“Livestock farms are highly regulated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the same agency that pulls together Indiana’s impairment data cited in recent media coverage. One component of these regulations is to make sure land application of manure only occurs during appropriate ground conditions and only at agronomic rates so that it can be properly utilized as fertilizer by a crop. If a farm does not abide by these prescribed rates, it is subject to penalties,” said the statement.
Indiana Pork contends that livestock farms now use much less space than 50 years ago and have 35 percent less carbon footprint.
Schaeffer said he doesn’t want to blame the farmers who are trying to do things the right way. But, the Clean Water Act requires those large farms to have permits that limit the amount of waste they can produce.
“That part of the Clean Water Act really hasn’t worked very well.”
He said the solutions lie in enforcement of the laws that are on the books, and updating old laws.
The report, “The Clean Water Act at 50”, can be viewed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jwfznocoT-YslTKgi_I7LXdJbGOEvRcO/view
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