Pollution From Factory Farms
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has issued a notice of violation to a Randolph County pork producer. Aaron Chalfant is accused of spraying 200,000 gallons of hog manure onto a field during rainy weather in June, resulting in major fish kills in Bear Creek and Mississinewa River.
Chalfant is also being cited for not properly filling out a spill report and not notifying the nearest downstream water user, both required by law. He raises finishing hogs for North Carolina-based, Maxwell Foods.
This is not the first time Indiana has experienced pollution problems with pork producers. In 2008, a Bartholomew County hog producer closed his farm and paid a $7,750 fine after a manure spill that allegedly harmed state waterways.
Nor is this the first farm pollution issue to come from Randolph County. Union-Go Dairy paid a $5,000 penalty to settle a 2007 complaint that it discharged manure into two miles of the Sparrow Creek.
With anywhere from 3,000 to 900,000 hogs confined in factory hog operations, liquefying the manure is the most practical way of dealing with all that waste. This makes it easier to transport and, consequently, spray onto land.
According to Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of "Righteous Porkchop: Finding A Life And Good Food Beyond Factory Farms, liquid manure is a recent invention in farming; it's only been done the last several decades with the rise of factory operations. Traditional farming models don't have these waste management issues, as hog populations number in the few hundred.
There's nothing inherently wrong with applying manure to to land - in fact, it's a good thing! "A safe drug like Aspirin is very beneficial in a small amount, but it becomes a toxin when you take too much of it," she adds. "It's the same thing with manure."
In the case of Chalfant, it is assumed he of applied the manure to a bare field. "When you apply manure to fields and no crops come up to use the manure, it washes away," says Debra Carpenter, a conservation technician at the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The Way Pigs Live
"What's really troubling about factory farms," say Niman, "is that pigs are radically deprived of the ability to do any of their natural behaviors." Their movement is incredibly restricted, they stand on hard surfaces, and they can't dig or root. And since their intelligence is comparable to dogs, the factory farm environment is extremely boring for their interesting and active minds, which creates an additional set of problems.
The Food & Water Watch recently published a map of factory farms across the country. Here is a sample of the facts they gathered about hogs:
- U.S. hog factory farms added 4,600 hogs every day between 1997 and 2007.
- The average size of U.S. hog factory farms grew by 42 percent to 5,144 between 1997 and 2007.
- Some 30 million hogs, nearly half of all hogs confined to factory farms in the U.S., are located in Iowa and North Carolina alone.
- A 2003 study found that living downwind from industrial hog operations reduced the property values of neighboring residential homes by approximately 10 percent.
- Randolph County Pork Farmer Cited By IDEM (Palladium-Item)
- Factory Farm Map (Food & Water Watch)
- Randolph County Dairy Fined Over Manure Spill (The Indiana Law Blog)
- Nicolette Hahn Niman: Pigs Living Naturally, Meat In The City (Earth Eats)