Most states, including Maryland, are failing to control pollution from animal waste, which contaminates 60,000 miles of streams nationwide and taints drinking water supplies in at least 17 states, a group of environmentalists reported yesterday.
Clean Water Network, a coalition that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, called for a ban on new federal permits for "animal factories" and for new steps to prevent animal manure from running off into waterways.
In a survey of 30 states, the coalition found that livestock operations generate 130 times the amount of waste that humans do. But unlike human waste, the animal manure is generally stored in open lagoons or spread on farm fields with little or no treatment and scant oversight from state environmental agencies, the coalition said in a 183-page report.
While Maryland is one of only three states that propose to regulate the disposal of chicken manure, the report notes that Maryland's regulations, passed by the General Assembly this year, will not go into effect until 2005.
The report also criticizes Maryland and other states for not making the large companies that own the poultry pay for controlling pollution. Typically, chickens are raised by individual growers under contract to one of 10 big companies that produce 92 percent of the nation's poultry.
The report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency and Agriculture Department want to make the nation's largest animal-raising operations comply with anti-pollution provisions of the Clean Water Act. A public meeting will be held Dec. 14 in Annapolis on the proposed federal requirements, which will not go into effect before 2002.
The EPA reached an agreement last week with the National Pork Producers Council: In exchange for voluntary cleanup measures on some feedlots, the agency will limit potential water pollution fines to $40,000 per farmer, rather than the $27,000 a day permitted by the Clean Water Act.
Similar negotiations between the EPA and the biggest chicken producers have failed to produce an agreement.
Environmentalists believe the EPA and the states are exchanging enforcement powers for weak voluntary programs, said Chris Bedford, Maryland coordinator of the Sierra Club. "Most states have voluntary compliance if they have anything at all," Bedford said, "and clearly that's not good enough."
Pub Date: 12/04/98