North Dakota has a strong and proud legacy of family farming. North
Dakota Clean Water Action is fighting to protect that legacy. CAFO's
are a major reason why we are losing family farms year after year. In
addition, CAFO's make a huge impact on our environment.
Water quality is strongly affected by CAFO's, they confine enormous
amounts of animal waste in relatively small areas. Even clay-lined
lagoons may leak up to several thousand gallons per acre per day
(Sierra Club), these lagoons have such an impact on water quality that
Minnesota has banned them. Even state of the art facilities have
accidents. In the late 1990's in Minnesota 2 CAFO's had spills of over
100,000 gallons of animal waste each. One because a switch
malfunctioned, killing everything for 18 miles downstream. The waste
itself is a problem, but in addition it is a major source of nitrogen,
phosphorus, dangerous bacteria, and antibiotics. CAFO's are the largest
source of total in-stream nitrogen, more so than any point source-in
fact applying animal manure to the ground near wells doubles the
likelihood that nitrate levels in the well will be unhealthy (EPA,
1998). Communities near factory farms rely on groundwater for their
drinking water; excessive nitrates are linked to blue-baby syndrome,
spontaneous abortions, and fish kills.
Bacteria found in the animal waste like fecal coliform, e-coli are
proven to cause illness. Other small organisms are found in animal
waste like Cryptosporidium-responsible for more than 100 deaths and
403,000 illnesses in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
CAFO's rely heavily on the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics to
prevent disease in their livestock due to the unhygienic conditions,
and also to fatten livestock faster. Livestock are fed eight times the
amount of antibiotics that are given to humans every year, 25 million
pounds (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2001). The sub therapeutic use
of antibiotics has created many strains of antibiotic-resistant
bacteria, the treatment of these antibiotic-resistant infections may
cost the U.S. up to $30 billion annually (National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Disease). 6 out of the 17 classes of antibiotics
available to humans are used to promote growth in livestock (New York
Times, 1999). An example, more than one-third of the salmonella
poisoning cases in 1997 were found to be resistant to five antibiotics.
Another example, methicillin-resistant staph bacteria has increased
from 2.4 to 29 percent in 16 years (Panlilio, 1992).