The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality are working to contain thousands of gallons of manure that have spilled into a rural Michigan community. The manure is flowing in the Fulton area off of a farming operation’s field. The manure had been spread onto farmland last week when the temperatures were still below freezing.
Unfortunately for the Michigan community, this week’s incredibly quick warm-up has caused a dangerous situation as streams of manure flowed off of the farmland and into the surrounding neighborhood, according to WWMT News.
“I don’t want that in my yard, or in my area. It’s kind of disgusting,” neighbor Lisa Norris told a reporter of the feces overflow. Environmental groups say that the practice of spraying mass amounts of liquid manure on large areas of farmland while the ground is frozen is causing an extremely dangerous level of phosphorus to enter Michigan waterways, in addition to bacterial and viral contaminants found in excess in the manure.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found that, as the snow started to melt quickly on Sunday, the manure stream began to run off the field, flowing over a road and into ditches and nearby properties.
“Try to keep anymore contaminated water from heading down stream. They have it dammed at the field,” Bruce Washburn, an environmental quality analyst at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, stated while mentioning a concern that the feces-based material will make its way to the watershed and sicken wildlife. “And obviously human health is the other concern that we have. Swimming in it, drinking it, that’s what the health department is looking into.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality analyst said that they still aren’t certain if the streams of manure infiltrating the neighborhood were caused by improper application by the farming company or if it was just bad timing, but did call the practice of spreading manure on ground that is still covered with snow a “risky practice.”
Still, the farming company was reportedly very proactive at trying to contain and clean up the streams of manure, which is critical given that there is still more snow that will melt as Michigan continues to see warm, spring-like weather. Local residents are concerned that the cleanup won’t be finished before the streams of manure make their way into the groundwater and fear contamination of wells that they rely on for drinking water.
Last year, after Lake Erie experienced an overabundance of blue-green algae, parts of Ohio dealt with toxic, contaminated drinking water. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality fielded concerns that it might have been caused by farmers’ manure running off into the great lake. By December, though, the analysts reported that that was not the case.
“Manure spreading happens around the state,” Brad Wurfel of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality explained at the time. “The way farmers must handle manure depends on the farm’s individual permit prohibitions. In some cases, farmers are not allowed to apply manure to frozen ground,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
One environmental group claims Michigan concentrated animal farming operations are often not as careful as they should be while spreading manure.
“Since 2000, there have been 4,680 violations and discharges, many of them multiple-day violations, confirmed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in [South Central Michigan]”
Depending on the outcome of the current investigation in Southwestern Michigan by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Kalamazoo County farming company could face fines.
[Photo via Owasco Watershed Lake Association (OWLA) on Change.org]