Thursday, September 30, 2010

EPA moves to curb factory farm pollution in Illinois

The Environmental Protection Agency took Illinois state regulators to task Wednesday for their failure to crack down on water pollution from factory farms. "Responding to a petition from environmental groups, [EPA] said its nearly yearlong investigation found widespread problems with the Illinois EPA's oversight of confined-animal feeding operations, or CAFOs," Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune reports. "Many of the cattle, hog and chicken operations produce manure in amounts comparable to the waste generated by small towns."

In addition to failing to lock farms into permits that limit water pollution, EPA said state regulators also have been "slow to respond to citizen complaints or take formal enforcement action against big feedlots and dairies that violate federal and state environmental laws," Hawthorne writes. The 41-page report ordered Illinois to create a comprehensive inventory of factory farms, revamp its inspection program and develop standard procedures for investigating citizen complaints. Illinois EPA said in a statement it is still reviewing the report and the agency has issued water-pollution permits to 14 CAFOs and is reviewing 43 more.

"Federal EPA officials found that 32 percent of the state inspection reports they reviewed weren't detailed enough to determine if a confined-animal operation was complying with environmental laws," Hawthorne writes. "Even when the state took enforcement action, the federal EPA said, it failed to get megadairies and feedlots to comply with anti-pollution laws in more than 60 percent of the cases reviewed." The report concluded "many of these facilities exhibited serious or chronic noncompliance." If the state fails to act, U.S. EPA could take over Illinois' CAFO program. (Read more)

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