Beyond the Stink—Why aren’t we protected from Industrial Farming air emissions?

American Lung Association logo
In Wisconsin

March 26, 2013
The American Lung Association in Wisconsin has been contacted by a group of concerned citizens in Kewaunee County for assistance in an air quality issue that is of great concern to both the residents of those communities and to our organization. The issue is the proposed plan to spray liquid manure fertilizer. These residents are understandably upset at the prospect of being subjected to breathing liquid manure! I also have been informed that there have been several workgroup meetings to which residents of the communities affected were not invited to participate.
According to a report published by the National Association of Local Boards of Health animal manure contains 160 pathogens that are capable of causing disease or infection in animals or humans, affecting the respiratory and digestive systems, muscles and skin with chills and fever, itching and rashes, fatigue and weakness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, headache, abdominal pain and cramping and other debilitating symptoms and illnesses. These pathogens can be transmitted through the air and/or water, potentially leading to widespread outbreaks. Manure lagoons also contain antibiotics, hormones, barn cleaners and municipal and industrial wastes, all of which are potentially transferred to humans and animals a great distance from the spraying area.
In Kewanee County alone, there are currently 16 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which are already spreading liquid manure directly to the land. To consider adding spraying of additional liquid manure increases the risk those residents already face.
The American Lung Association understands and respects the long tradition of agriculture and the important role it plays in our economy. Many of our own state authorities, however, have publicly recognized the potential negative health impacts of the center pivot sprinkler technology and have published recommendations to limit exposure. Whether these recommendations are adequate to protect these residents is still open for debate, especially in light of the very large potential applications being considered. Because of these facts, we are requesting that you reopen the work group with the inclusion of residents from the affected communities. We also respectfully request that you hold a public hearing in advance of issuing any permits, so that residents can be fully heard.
I know the residents are eager to work with state officials to find a solution that both helps our farms prosper while also protecting the people who live nearby. I hope to learn more about the permitting process and how we can assist you in finding a satisfactory resolution to this issue.
Dona Wininsky
Director of Public Policy and Communications, American Lung Association in Wisconsin
During the spreading seasons of both spring and fall, it is not unusual to hear neighbors discussing the stench that pervades the air, has ruined laundry on the clothesline, resulted in closing windows at various times of the day and night, and causes the inability to use the outdoors where you live. Often those inundated by odors given off by factory farm lagoons, farm digesters, & spreading fields– do not realize that beyond the “smell” lies a very real health threat. Toxic emissions known to harm human health include hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, and dangerous Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC’s]. Harmful particulate matter that is emitted from AG operations and their fans, often mounted on buildings, should concern those who suffer from toxic emissions; they impact far more than merely an unpleasant overwhelming smell.

At Kewaunee CARES we have decided to put a more concentrated effort into addressing the air we share and promoting healthier air in our community. This will just be the first of several entries on how you can protect yourself.

Keep an odor log. This could be as simple as using the calendar you have in your home. Write down time, day, what the odor was and how it affected you/plans.

Invest in an indoor air purifier. These are not overly expensive and may help with air quality in your home. Often times
agricultural emissions are so high that they pervade the very interior of our homes.

Very little has been done to address the emissions from large industrial operations that pose serious threats to air quality where we live–by state and local health departments, DATCP, DNR, or the Environmental Protection Agency.
This will have to be another important issue tackled at the grassroots level. Please help us to Educate, Advocate, & Create Awareness…So we can all breathe easier. Thank you!

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How Safe are our Rural Roads?

This Roadway Violation took place September 5th, eastward bound on County K in the Town of Pierce, Kewaunee County. While signage of “Be prepared to Stop” and “Men working” was placed on the roadway, no roadway assistance or flagmen were on site to maneuver drivers through conditions including a light rain, a double line no passing zone, and a blind hill. How safe are our rural roadways? Several rollovers involving milk tankers and manure haulers have occurred in northeast Wisconsin– becoming commonplace. Speed is often a factor.

One day prior to this violation a milk truck crashed in our community; luckily no one was injured.
Kewaunee County Comet: Sept. 5

Photo documentation, time/date, and a call to law enforcement resulted in a citation given for this offense.

On September 19th, at the town meeting in Pierce where the violation occurred, Sheriff Matt Joski stated, “We have all been patient and we have educated as much as possible. It is now time to back up our message with action”.

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Reading Between the lines

If you read between the lines, in this July story by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Lee Berquist,

it is interesting to note that he states, “After prodding from environmental groups and some rural residents, the Department of Natural Resources is targeting 15 counties, including those of metropolitan Milwaukee, for certain manure-spreading standards”.

Some rural residents? What exactly do rural residents have to do with the pollution that has contaminated their water source in their homes, sullied the landscape, lowered their property values, and left them with serious quality of life issues?

For too long average residents, who have plenty to say, and are living with the consequences of intensive industrial farming where they live— are left out of the conversation. Instead the media focuses in on “environmentalists” and their concerns–seemingly pitting industry vs. environmentalists. Rural residents? Not radical environmentalists?

Prior to being labeled “Environmentalists” most concerned rural residents are just that–homeowners seeking social and environmental justice where they live. An independent lot, many country dwellers are not “joiners” and feel confident in their own abilities to represent themselves and do not feel the need to join organizations therefore pigeon-holing them into a status of “environmentalist”; “radical”; “anti-farming”; and the numerous other labels attached to those who vocalize injustice where they live.

Rural residents are, and should be— the voices heard from the rural countryside and other communities.

Kewaunee CARES thanks those residents, whoever they may be, for being that voice amid the blowback that it sometimes entails, and the example that Environmentalists are merely “residents” whose resolve and commitment to the land, air, water and our communities— will not allow them to give up.

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