Death of the Lakes: The Spreading of Toxic and Infectious Wastes and Disease
By David Michael
Human illnesses and animal deaths have occurred recently from neurotoxins secreted by a heavy slime of blue and green algae floating on Ohio’s largest lake—Grand Lake St. Mary’s (Grand Lake) in Auglaize and Mercer Counties. This is a lake that has been deteriorating for decades, but especially so in the past 10 years as factory farms have sprung up all over the area, and more are being built.
A high concentration of factory farms and the application of composted manure from CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) manure and sewage treatment sludge (humanure, now called biosolids—a mixture of concentrated human excrement and industrial discharges) is spreading toxic and infectious substances on farmlands close by and in the watershed. CAFOs in the watershed area account for 3 million chickens; while sewage sludge spreading is permitted on 8800 Ohio farmlands—several close to the edge of Grand Lake.
Pollutants discharging into the lake also include fertilizer runoff (phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen (PKN) as well as some pesticides and herbicides—as is commonly known. But there is far more to the story, including heavy metals (like lead, arsenic and chromium), pharmaceuticals, neurotoxins, cancer-causers, viruses, bacteria—and just about every known chemical (60,000 some) known to man and being placed on the farmlands.
EPA and state officials know about this—as does USDA, and their partners in the big food and big agriculture corporations. Yet the smaller farmers are being accused for causing the mess, and homeowners too—while the CAFOs and spreading of sludge are being expanded rapidly though state and federally funded “green” programs and contracted out to a few individuals.
This and other similar situations occurring all around the US are coming to a head and, in sum, may be a far greater impact than the BP Gulf oil spill. The polluted farmlands may never be recovered without being excavated.
This news video on the situation does not feature a CAFO but rather a small 250-head farm using a natural treatment system as an example of the problem, rather than a superfarm. The big farms have gates and security procedures.
Make no mistake, there are increased deaths and illnesses for animals and humans living near CAFOs or lands where human waste is spread, which is well-documented. So far at the Lake, a 43-year old man may be neurologically impaired for life after washing the scum off his dog before the dog died from exposure. The man spent five days in the hospital and is now home hoping to recover. Two other dogs have died from exposure as well as innumerable fish.
The Data: High Levels of Toxins
Both CAFO wastes and sewage sludge contains these types of contaminants and EPA data shows many of these are extremely high levels.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs);
Chlorinated pesticides — DDT, dieldrin, aldrin, endrin, chlordane, heptachlor, lindane, mirex, kepone, 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D;
Chlorinated compounds such as dioxins;
Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons;
Heavy metals — arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury;
Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasitic worms, fungi; and
Miscellaneous — asbestos, petroleum products, industrial solvents
EPA data shows high levels of known toxic compounds in these sludge “fertilizers” and are provided in a 2009 report on 74 sewage treatment plants. It shows high levels of contaminants including Arsenic (49 ppm, parts per million), Mercury (8.3 ppm), Aluminum (57,000 ppm=6%). Fluoride (234 ppm). EPA limits on Arsenic is 75 ppm (an additive in chicken feed) and Cadmium, 85 ppm. These are the maximum levels detected on a dry-weight basis. These are so high the wastes would be classified as a hazardous waste requiring treatment– but not is it used as soil amendments.
Pharmaceuticals (Ciprofloxcine, 50 ppm—Fluoxentine 3.1 ppm (this is Prozac)—Ibupropen (119 ppm), triclocarban (44 ppm). Levels of the tricloscan , the anti-bacterial compound in hand soap, was 133 ppm. These are maximum levels on a dry-weight basis.
In addition, CAFO manure lagoons overflow into ditches at times and are affecting groundwaters., some of which feed ditches and streams. These lagoons are laden with antibiotic-resistant superbugs, virus and other bacteria multiplying rapidly during composting and field applications and many persist for a month to a year.
Spreading CAFO and sewage wastes are increasing rapidly. Federal and state funds are being used to generate a small amount of electricity from the sludge by the way of new bioreactors. This makes the sludge and its contaminants. These are called “green, clean energy programs”. The pathogenic biology of the wastes from CAFOs are not much different than those from sewage treatment plants, sans pharmaceuticals, synthetic organics. Chicken CAFOs use arsenic compounds as antibiotics in the feed, so high Arsenic levels in the manure are either spread, but has been also blended in the feed of the factory dairy cows or hogs.
Now that Grand Lake is in crisis, the Ohio governor and several state caretaker agencies are scrambling in an effort to clean up the toxic brew and circumvent a worsening health epidemic. The State has not mentioned CAFOs as being a source, only agriculture in general. But small farms are being singled out in other areas. For instance, in Lancaster PA, small Amish farmers are being targeted as a cause of the deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay 180 miles to the South. Home septic tanks and lawns (which only account for an estimated 2% of the problem) are being blamed as well. The lake’s remarkable degradation is not a result of small farming operations and suggestions to the contrary are ridiculous.
Jim Bynam wrote the Scandal of Sewage Sludge, where he states:
Research shows: 1) chemical build up in animals that may effect the first and second generation, as well as those who eat certain animal parts; 2) bacteria were found to be viable for over 70 weeks on grazing land; 3) composting cause bacterial desiccation (dry up) which only lasted until proper moisture was available; and 4) there were even problems with land filling sludge.
EPA states, “Environmental and public health risks include leachate contamination of water and soil resources, destruction of native fauna and flora, obnoxious odors, aerosol and dust generation, pathogen transmission, and other related nuisances.– The risk of transmitting disease is of major concern for the various sludge disposal practices. The direct pathways for disease transmission from sludge land filling operations include aerosols, vector transport, direct contact, groundwater and surface runoff.”
The Major Sources
Egg factories with 100,000 to 250,000 hens in huge, enclosed buildings account for 3 million egg-laying hens (3,000 animal units) in the watershed of Grand Lake. There are many more in the 25,000 to 100,000 range that do not require a CAFO permit. There may be more than 6 million hens in the the area. The map below shows the appalling extent of the most concentrated factory farms in Ohio and probably the entire US. These are only the EPA-“permitted” farms -CAFOs– with 1000 animal units or more (equivalent to 1000 cows/steers or 100,000 hens). See the heavy concentration of CAFOs in the western part of the state map and then zoom in to see the Lake. http://wwwapp.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/gis/cafo/http://wwwapp.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/gis/cafo/
The map below shows the EPA-approved land areas for the application of what is now termed Biosolids, an Orwellian-like term for human sewage treatment sludge, so named when the public did not like the humanure term. You will need to select Mercer County to view the map of the Grand Lake area. http://wwwapp.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/gis/sludge/index.php
“Green” companies have sold a “cleaner” grade of BioSolids at big box stores for a few years as a soil enhancement for homeowners and landscapers—without any labels disclosing it is 100% derived from human sewage and industrial discharge concentrates. In the Shit Show published this month in the San Francisco Bay Gazette, we see the mayor has pushed Biosolids all over the city and from homeowners, creating an uproar from experts and citizens who know what it contains.
David Kirby, author of the new book Animal Factory, recently investigated Grand Lake, and penned the piece for Huffington Post, The High Price of Cheap Meat: A Lake Dies in Ohio, said this:
“Factory farms, in addition to their insatiable demand for subsidized feed, also generate thousands of tons of animal waste each year, far more than the surrounding land can absorb. The manure — in this part of Ohio, most factory farms are either pork, or “layer” (egg) operations — is sometimes liquefied and sprayed from giant sprinklers that spew brownish-yellow water onto cropland which — too often — runs off into streams and ditches that feed into rivers and lakes, including Grand Lake St. Marys.
It is not logical to blame most of this mess on smaller, more sustainably run farms where animals are not packed in by the hundreds or thousands, and where there’s enough land to adequately absorb the waste, thus reducing the chance of nutrient runoff.
Besides, small farms have graced this area for generations on end, and the lake did not become a Petri dish for liver toxins until now. Something has changed, and that something — in my opinion — is factory farming and its excess manure. And local people know it. Local residents “say stricter regulations are needed on large farms,” the Associated Press reported, “limiting when they can apply manure to their fields and how close they can plant to streams.”
When I was researching my book Animal Factory – The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment – I came across this same situation wherever CAFOs had invaded: the tidewater area of North Carolina, the mega-dairy region of Yakima Valley, WA, or the “poultry belt” of Arkansas (whose big chicken growers like Tyson have been sued by the Oklahoma Attorney General for allowing nutrients from poultry waste to cross the border and pollute lakes and rivers). In each case, once pristine waters had been spoiled after the CAFOs showed up.”
David Michael is an environmental specialist and has spent his 35-year professional career in Ohio in all phases of industrial environmental controls. David is also a food health and safety advocate for naturally, unprocessed food– fresh from the farm.