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Manure runoff is threat to human health [Letter]

Environmental PollutionU.S. Geological Survey

Reducing runoff from over application of manure is not just about preventing algal blooms and dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay ("Farm pollution rule withdrawn," Nov. 18). High levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, antibiotic resistant bacteria and animal drug residues in ground water pose a risk to human health. This is especially important on the Eastern Shore where a higher proportion of residents rely on water from private wells, which are not monitored by government agencies. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey has shown that surface and ground water quality in the Delmarva region is highly impacted by the disposal of 42 million cubic feet of manure from the 523 million chickens grown there each year (numbers according to a Delmarva Poultry Industry 2009 Fact Sheet). The people most at risk for health problems due to exposure to pollution from industrial poultry production in Maryland are Eastern Shore residents, including farmers and their communities.

Instead of putting up roadblocks, agribusiness lobbying groups in Maryland should be finding ways to put manure handling policies based on the latest science into practice in a timely manner. In addition, rather than spending taxpayer money on shipping manure throughout the region to reduce levels of phosphorus in soil where it has been over applied for years, the Department of Agriculture should be helping Maryland farmers transition to a food production model that does not pollute the environment and threaten the public's health.

Jillian Fry and Bob Martin, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, project director and program director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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