Waterkeeper News: Mega-dairy, mega-hog plant, mega-Tyson chicken, mega pollution

Editor’s note: Art Norris is the Quad Cities Waterkeeper. He looks after 150 miles of the Mississippi River and about 100 miles of the lower Rock River. For more information, visit quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org.

Please make the calls and e-mails he requests. The effort just takes an instant in a lifetime, and Mother Nature needs you.

By Art Norris
Quad Cities Waterkeeper (QCW)

U.S. Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) sent me a letter from Washington, D.C. The letter states he is supporting Clean Water Act, 5088, introduced by U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.). (See http://picasaweb.google.com/quadcitieswaterkeeper/20100601USCongressmanPhilHareLetterToQCW#.)

I want to give both of them a big “Thank you!”—it is well overdue and so needed. The act will give the few Illinois wetlands acres left protection, but I wonder if it will protect against a developing cotangential environmental disaster.

I attended and spoke at a meeting held by the group Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards (HOMES) in Jo Daviess County May 27. I spoke after David Kirby (author of the new book ANIMAL FACTORY—The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment (St. Martin’s Press) at the Galena Convention Center. The event was sponsored by HOMES.

I was astounded by what I heard and saw. I immediately identified a pattern where it seems no protection exists in our state from the livestock industry. (See http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=151547).

For more than two years, HOMES has been battling the construction of an enormous factory-dairy facility, Traditions South, slated to be constructed at the headwaters of the Apple River atop a sensitive karst aquifer. As far as I know, there has been no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this huge facility, even though one of its enormous, multi-million gallon waste lagoons is planned to be built right on top of a wetland area.

So, basically what you have is the proposed Triumph Foods pork processing facility on the lower Rock River AND the proposed Traditions South mega-dairy up north threatening the drinking water of 18 million people. Triumph Foods plans on slaughtering an astounding 4 million hogs a year on your Rock River. That’s 16,000 hogs a day, while Tyson Foods is dumping a staggering 3 million pounds a year of toxic chemicals into the Rock River just a few miles upstream from the Triumph site.

But neither the Traditions mega-dairy nor the Triumph facility has been required to produce an EIS. Why? Where are the protections? These facilities could load millions of gallons of waste into our rivers and threaten our drinking water supplies. Haven’t we learned anything from the ongoing BP disaster? It’s the same story, but instead of oil, it’s raw feces and other dangerous contaminants.

The public needs to begin asking more questions. We need to seek the truth, write letters, make phone calls and speak out to our government leaders. Otherwise, they will let these industries threaten our water, our way of life, and our children’s future.

Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and demand an EIS be done on both of these sites. If we lose these two battles, it will prove big businesses can do whatever it wants and get away with it, all the while side-stepping the very laws that are in place to protect us. Write Rep. Hare and tell him you want him to take a stand for you, your rivers, your wetlands, and your children’s future.

We can make change, but we need a public outcry. After BP, Americans now know we need to stand up to protect our future. The river needs us now.

Contact Art Norris at http://quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org/ or quadcitieswaterkeeper@gmail.com.

From the June 9-15, 2010 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!