Posts Tagged ‘water’

Up Shit Creek

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

In 1995, Smithfield spilled more than twenty million gallons of lagoon waste into the New River in North Carolina.

In 1997, Smithfield was penalized for a mind-blowing seven thousand violations of the Clean Water Act… One violation might be an accident. Even ten violations might. Seven thousand violations is a plan. Smithfield was fined $12.6 million… but this is a pathetically small amount to a company that now grosses $12.6 million every ten hours.

– Jonathan Safran Foer, from page 178-179 of Eating Animals

Smithfield is the biggest pork producer in the United States. It annually produces at least as much fecal waste as the entire human population of the states of California and Texas combined (p. 175). This pig shit is pooled into football-field sized open-air lagoons. The lagoons can be overwhelmed. The shit then goes into local waterways. Bacon tastes good.


Manure Management: New Mexico’s Dairy Row

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

From today’s Morning Edition on NPR:

Farms dispose of waste in two ways.

First, workers hose the muck off the concrete floor of a milking barn, and it flows into a plastic- or clay-lined lagoon where the liquid evaporates.

Second, waste from the feedlot where the cows live is collected and used as fertilizer for grain crops.

But the New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state’s 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland.

On Dairy Row along Interstate 10 between Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso, Texas, more than 30,000 cows live in 11 farms located one after the other.

In the past four years, the EPA has repeatedly cited these dairies for violating the Clean Water Act because manure-laced stormwater was washing into tributaries of the Rio Grande.


Everyday, an average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure. New Mexico has 300,000 milk cows. That totals 5.4 million gallons of manure in the state every day. It’s enough to fill up nine Olympic-size pools. Every single day.

That’s a lot of poo, eh?

The Jellies are Coming

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

An article on Yahoo (via the AP) yesterday attempted to tie the global explosion of jellyfish populations to global warming. While I believe that is probably one of the causes of this weird and disturbing trend, I think blaming it on global warming is way off base. Fishermen in Japan are complaining about jellyfish clogging their fishing nets, and whine that the government should do something about the jellyfish. This might stop the jellies: ban all fishing altogether! Those jellyfish are everywhere because people have fished out their predators and disrupted their ecosystems to favor them! From the article:

The gelatinous seaborne creatures are blamed for decimating fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas, forcing the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, and terrorizing beachgoers worldwide, the U.S. National Science Foundation says.

While I am tempted to celebrate the decimation of those fishing industries, I realize that it is not a good thing unless those fisheries recover and all those former fishermen never come back. I am upset that this article seems to raise concern for the well-being of these fishermen and climate change, rather than the more alarming issue to me: we have drastically changed the oceans’ ecosystems! Boo-hoo, there is less sushi to eat. The real tragedy is that there are so few fish out there now because of modern fishing. This problem will keep getting worse as long as we plunder ocean life gold-rush style. Also, don’t forget that jellyfish love the hypoxic dead-zones where algal blooms choke off almost all other life, like the one at the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico. These dead-zones are caused by all the accumulated agricultural runoff that flow down rivers (fertilizer, cow and pig manure, pesticides, herbicides) and eventually into the Mississippi and the gulf.

They do mention these things, by the way, but only as an aside:

Increasingly polluted waters — off China, for example — boost growth of the microscopic plankton that “jellies” feed upon, while overfishing has eliminated many of the jellyfish’s predators and cut down on competitors for plankton feed.

You want fewer jellyfish? Go vegan, buy organic, leave the oceans alone.

Live by a Dairy? Don’t Drink the Water.

September 22, 2009 2 comments


From Thursday’s New York Times (9/17/09):

Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Imagine all the cows it takes to meet demand for the U.S.’ beef and dairy consumers. Now, imagine how much manure those cows must produce. Where does all that bulls%#t go? Unfortunately, it might end up in your tapwater if you live in farm country. 

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) like dairies and beef feedlots typically store cattle waste in big open-air lagoons, like you can see in my Google Earth CAFO-spotting post. Sometimes the farmers line the lakes of poo with some plastic (way to go!), but I’m guessing most probably don’t bother. Either way, that manure is often used as fertilizer on nearby crop fields. When there is a storm or flood, you guessed it, the manure-lakes often runneth over. The runoff can get into lakes, streams, and rivers to compound the constant problem of groundwater contamination caused by this lazy waste management “system.” 

How do they get away with this? Easy. They basically regulate themselves. According to the NYT article, the EPA does some regulating of the biggest farms, but it is too overworked to really enforce anything, so it leaves a lot of that up to the states. States with big agriculture industries have powerful lobbies that resist environmental protection regulation. And Bush-era policies made things easier for them too. Farmers say they aren’t to blame because they are following the rules, which is probably true. The problem is, there aren’t good enough rules.

Just something to think about.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Ocean Junk

This picture is of a bundle of net and plastic trash found in the Texas-sized ocean garbage pit of the North Pacific Gyre. Also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is a swirling vortex of floating bits of plastic 1,000 miles west of California. Most of the plastic is broken down into tiny pieces that may get eaten by sea-beasties, or dissolved into chemicals, which… probably isn’t good for ocean life in general.

Read about it in the AP article or watch Vice (VBS) TV’s cool mini-documentary on the gyre called TOXIC: Garbage Island. I mean… I’m just sayin… come on.

Water Footprint

August 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Man, I hate to get this blog started off with a bunch of negativity, but I just remembered this article in Mother Jones about water footprint, and I had to get something about it up here. The subtitle caught my attention; something about a pair of jeans taking over 2000 gallons of water to make. We are all so caught up thinking about carbon footprint lately, and think we’re being green by taking shorter showers, but you have to think a bit deeper on this one.

You can calculate your water footprint here. Think positive.