Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sierra Club Denounces MDEQ

Gail Philbin, Director of the Sierra Club in Michigan, wrote in the Detroit News on February 22, 2016 (excerpts):

The spectacle of a Michigan city poisoned by a drinking-water crisis caused by cost-cutting surprised few, if any, folks working on environmental issues in this state.

...[W]e’re all too familiar with the Snyder administration’s disregard for public health and the will of the people.

A dangerous culture has taken hold at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). That culture de-emphasizes government transparency, regulatory enforcement and responsiveness to citizen complaints, and instead emphasizes budget reductions and voluntary measures to address significant problems.

In rural Michigan, a disaster that affects us all is brewing. Manure runoff from industrial livestock facilities is polluting lakes, rivers and streams.

This calamity has been unfolding for years, but was aided by Snyder’s appointment of Dan Wyant to head the MDEQ. Wyant ran the Michigan Department of Agriculture for years.

■The MDEQ refused to update its permit for factory require a ban on the application of manure on snow-covered or frozen ground.

■Until only very recently, records of complaints about factory farm pollution to the MDEQ’s hotline and actions taken were not publicly accessible.

■All but about 37 of the 269 CAFO permits issued in Michigan have expired, but the facilities are still in operation.

MDEQ rarely does field investigations and doesn’t take water samples in response to reports of suspected manure-related incidents by Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan...

In agriculture, we can take two immediate steps: ban the application of CAFO waste on frozen or snow-covered ground throughout Michigan; and declare Lake Erie an impaired watershed, which will set mandatory pollution limits for tributaries.

...[Y]ou have the right to clean air and water.

Well said. Kudos to Detroit News for publishing this.

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