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Guest Column: Jefferson supports Clean Water legislation
– Family farm and environmental communities applaud Representative Charles E. Jefferson for his support of clean water legislation
By Danielle Diamond
Attorney for Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water
In the final hour of the Illinois Legislature’s spring session, Representative Jefferson (D) of the 67th District (Winnebago County) added his name as cosponsor and a growing list of supporters of the Clean Water Funding Fairness Bill (SB1682). The bill will require Clean Water Act permit fees from large-scale industrial animal factories that pollute Illinois rivers, streams, and lakes.
Industrialized factory farms, commonly referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), more closely resemble industrial production facilities than traditional family livestock farms.
The Clean Water Funding Fairness Bill, if enacted, will direct the Illinois EPA (IEPA) to establish an annual pollution permit fee for CAFOs, to cover the agency’s costs to issue permits and properly administer the CAFO Clean Water program.
Illinois law requires pollution dischargers—from chemical factories to sewage treatment plants—to pay fees for permits allowing them to discharge pollution into rivers, lakes, and streams.
CAFOs are the ONLY industrial polluters exempt from paying permit fees. Unless CAFOs are required to pay the fee, their portion of the program will continue to be paid for by other industries and taxpayers.
Traditional family farmers, as well as environmental organizations, such as Environment Illinois and Prairie Rivers Network, back the measure.
“By cosponsoring SB1682, Representative Jefferson is supporting family farmers who care for the environment and don’t pollute,” says Cindy Bonnet, a farmer from northwest Illinois. “Small, traditional family farms will be better able to survive in the marketplace when large-scale industrial operations are required to pay for the costs of their pollution.”
On traditional livestock farms, animals graze in pastures, compared to CAFOs where thousands of animals are confined in enclosed buildings. Although corporate producers have touted this form of livestock production as being more efficient, scientists, lawmakers, and communities are beginning to recognize the enormous costs borne by populations in surrounding areas as a result of pollution.
CAFOs generate approximately three times as much waste as humans in the United States. One CAFO can produce as much waste as a small city. However, unlike human waste, livestock waste is not treated. The untreated waste is stored in manure pits or lagoons and disposed of by either shipping it off-site or applying it to nearby fields. Improper land application, as well as overflows from lagoons and storage areas, can lead to pollution in nearby waters.
Water pollution from CAFOs has become a growing problem in Illinois. Illinois now has one of the highest concentrations of factory hog farms in the United States. According to the Illinois EPA’s 2010 Draft Integrated Water Quality Report, Animal Feeding.
From the June 8-14, 2011 issue