ENS: Animal Waste on Factory Farms Comes Under Closer EPA Scrutiny

Photo: Nigel Monckton
Photo: Nigel Monckton
The Environmental Protection Agency, in a legal settlement that could affect the entire U.S. meat industry, has agreed to identify and investigate thousands of factory farms that have been avoiding government regulation for water pollution with animal waste.

Factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFO’s, confine animals on an industrial scale and produce massive amounts of manure and other waste. They apply liquid animal waste on land, which runs off into waterways, killing fish, spreading disease, and contaminating drinking water.

More than 30 years ago, Congress identified factory farms as water pollution sources to be regulated under the Clean Water Act’s permit program. But a Bush administration regulation allowed large facilities to bypass government regulation by claiming, without verification, that they do not discharge into waterways.

The settlement, which challenged the Bush administration loophole, requires the EPA to propose a rule on greater information gathering on CAFO’s within the next 12 months.

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ABC: Progress on BP Spill Containment, But Is It Safe to Swim?

Photo: Jeff Warren
Photo: Jeff Warren
BP announced Sunday that they were collecting more than 10,000 barrels of oil a day from the recently placed containment cap. BP’s next step is to close the vents on the cap that are still allowing streams of oil to escape. U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen tempered the good news, however, saying “There will be oil out there for months to come.”

Beachgoers will likely have to deal with oil on the shores well into the fall, which brings up the question: Is it safe to swim? Health Departments of three states have already issued swim advisories urging people to steer clear of any waters with visible oil. One health expert said swimmers should avoid oily water because the effects of exposure to oil and dispersant are not currently known.

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ENN: New Study Examines the Effects of Development Intensity on Stream Health

The United States Geological Survey studied the effects of urbanization of nine metropolitan areas to look at the impact on algae, aquatic insects, fish, habitat, and chemistry. They found that development degraded the areas.

The health of a waterway is entirely dependent on the status of its riparian zone, the area of land from which storm water flows. In urban areas, impervious surfaces like roads, buildings, and parking lots cover more of the riparian zone. During a storm, water is unable to penetrate the ground surface to recharge aquifers and instead flows to streams and rivers through storm drains.

However, storm water in urban environments is a major source of pollution and is detrimental to riverine ecosystems. The water carries with it all of the deposition of human activities including lawn fertilizer, rock salt and calcium chloride pellets, spilled gasoline and other automotive fluids, litter, and other industrial pollutants.

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AOL: Civil and criminal investigations on Gulf spill are being pursued

Attorney General Eric Holder, during a visit to the Gulf today, announced that civil and criminal investigations about the spill are under way. Prosecutors are examining thousands of pages of e-mails, repair logs and other documents to see whether oil giant BP and its contractors have willfully violated federal safety regulations.

“If it turns out to have been misleading conduct, false statements, concealment or withholding of information, then there’s a whole laundry list of other charges that could materialize,” said David Uhlmann, former head of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section.

During the announcement, Holder said prosecutors will be focus on violations pertaining to the Clean Water Act, Oil Pollution Act, Migratory Bird Treaty, and the Endangered Species Act.

President Obama has asked Congress for $10 million to finance the investigations.

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