JFAN Letter to the Editor Published in the November 13, 2014 Fairfield Ledger
Spreading Hog Waste Is Health Risk
by Diane Rosenberg
To the editor:
Runoff from a field application of liquid hog manure has again fouled Iowa streams, this time a tributary to Walnut Creek in Pleasant Plain. The manure, discovered by Pleasant Plain resident Charleen McGinnis, came from DJB Family Farms, a 2,480-head CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) owned by Daniel Horras, located one-half mile from Ms. McGinnis.
In addition to the runoff, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cited Mr. Horras for using a field that was not on his manure management plan and for not being currently certified as a manure applicator. The violation is on its way to DNR’s Legal Services for further enforcement action, most likely entailing a fine.
If the polluted, frothy stream wasn’t bad enough, the untreated hog sewage – let’s call it what it really is – was applied right up to Ms. McGinnis’ property line in the city of Pleasant Plain, approximately 30 feet from her front door. Ms. McGinnis called Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JFAN) when the odors became unbearable.
State regulations allow manure to be applied right up to the property line of a residence or public use area if it is injected or incorporated within 24 hours. Neighbors have no recourse other than closing their windows and hoping the stench doesn’t seep into their homes.
It would be unconscionable to spread raw human sewage on agricultural land; the health risks are too great. But the Iowa State Legislature doesn’t seem to take issue with untreated hog sewage. Why is this sewage with its 300-plus toxic gases, particulates, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and antibiotics not considered a health risk? It should be.
People who live next to CAFOs or fields receiving hog sewage are at risk for a number of illnesses. A 2013 Johns Hopkins study found that 11 percent of antibiotic-resistant methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cases came from living near fields fertilized with raw livestock waste. MRSA infections are potentially life threatening, particularly in people with compromised immune systems, killing approximately 23,000 each year.
Last year a research team, including University of Iowa scientists, found people living within one mile of a 2500-head hog confinement had a 2.76 times higher risk of carrying MRSA. A 2009 University of Iowa study found MRSA was carried by 64 percent of CAFO workers.
Numerous University of North Carolina studies found people living within two miles of CAFOs experienced greater frequency of breathing and digestive problems, including asthma, coughing, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. A Pediatrics study found a higher incidence of asthma in children attending schools near CAFOs.
There is more than enough data proving that hog sewage collecting in filthy CAFO pits is harmful to public health. Iowa residents need to demand that state legislators put some teeth into CAFO regulations to protect the health and well-being of citizens, rather than protecting the pocketbooks of the corporate pork industry. Charleen McGinnis should not have to live next to a CAFO or a field with untreated hog sewage, and neither should you.
– Diane Rosenberg, executive director of Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc.