Monday, January 30, 2006

Microcystins, BGA Blooms and CAFOs

BGA blooms are most likely to form when three conditions converge:
1. the wind is quiet or mild
2. the water is warm but not hot (60 to 86 degrees F, 18 – 25 ÂșC))
3. the water harbors an abundance of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus (i.e., from agricultural or urban runoff, or failing sewage disposal systems).

Both condition #1 and condition #2 occur frequently on wetlands located in the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife reserve, adjoining the new Belstra-Harper swine CAFO currently under construction.

(The walls are up ...even though they poured their cement for manure pits and building foundations on ICE -- a strongly prohibited construction practice!!)

Needless to say, the plan for tons -- and TONS AND TONS -- of manure to be knifed into the ground at this and surrounding locations next to the Game Reserve bring with it an abundance of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus -- and I predict -- will prove to be too much for soils to handle/absorb, and will create condition #3 for toxic BGA blooms both on the reserve and in local area ditches and streams.

BGA blooms can be blue-green, olive green, grey-green, yellow–brown or purple to red. Blooms may persist for up to seven days but the resulting toxins may last for as long as three weeks. When algae cells die or are damaged, toxins may be released at levels harmful to pets and livestock if they drink the water or eat the algae.

Some blue-green algae toxins will remain toxic in a dry form.

Several genera of cyanobacteria (also referred to as blue-green algae) have been found to be toxic, and have been linked to the death of large numbers of birds and mammals.

Microcystins in drinking water are known to be harmful even at low concentrations and the cyanobacterial peptide toxins accumulate in certain aquatic food webs. In addition to microcystins and nodularins, neurotoxins such as anatoxin-a and cytotoxins such as cylindrospermopsin have been isolated from cyanobacteria.

Humans - Short term health effects:

Microcystins are hepatotoxic, causing necrosis and pooling of blood in the liver with the organ gaining up to 100% of its normal weight.

Some Symptoms Include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Piloerection
  • Weakness
  • Pallor
Onset of symptoms is extremely rapid, with death occurring in a few hours if a lethal dose is taken.

Damage to the liver is rapid and irreversible. Dialysis or liver transplants may be the only effective treatments. Antidote - NONE.

Humans - Long term health effects:

Of a more long term concern is that microcystins and nodularins are liver tumour promoters in test animals. Epidemiology suggests that there may be a positive correlation between levels of microcystin in fresh water supplies in certain areas of China and the number of human liver cancer cases.

Domestic Animals and Wildlife Health:

BGA can produce nervous system poisons (neurotoxins), liver poisons (hepatotoxins), or compounds that cause allergic responses (lipopolysaccharide endotoxins). BGA neurotoxins can kill animals within minutes by paralyzing the respiratory muscles, while the hepatotoxins can cause death within hours by causing blood to pool in the liver.

There are numerous reports of thirsty domestic animals and wildlife consuming fresh water contaminated with toxic BGA and dying within hours from neurotoxicity or hepatotoxicity, or developing sublethal chronic liver disease.

Canine deaths from BGA exposure have been reported in the USA, for examples;

-- From July through October 2001, 5 dogs died after swimming in Big Lagoon, CA

-- In the summer of 2002, 3 dog deaths were reported after contact with the South Fork of the Eel River, CA

-- Near Standish-Hickey State Park in Mendocino County,CA, 2 dogs died within a few minutes of swimming in the river, and another dog died after swimming near Tooby Park in Garberville in Humboldt County, CA. The third dog died within 15 minutes of exposure to the water.

-- In 2004, a dog that died in July shortly after swimming in the South Fork Eel River in Mendocino County near Indian Creek (Piercy), California, which may have ingested BGA toxins; however, the dog was buried before this could be confirmed.

Reported neurological symptoms include:
  • stumbling and falling,
  • followed by an inability to rise,
  • elevated heart rate,
  • foaming at the mouth,
  • howling,
  • tremors,
  • loss of bowel control,
  • eyes rolling back into the head,
  • and seizures.
The amount of BGA-tainted water needed to kill an animal depends on many factors but typically the volume ranges from a few ounces to several gallons. Thirsty animals are often undeterred by the foul smell and taste of contaminated water. Additionally, dogs can consume large quantities of BGA by licking their fur after swimming in a bloom.

BGA and their toxins move with winds and currents, and a species of BGA could turn up in one water sample, but not another, depending on the time and location of sampling.

Note To Jasper County Residents: Owners of pets in this area need to be aware of what to do. Evidence of an algae bloom and/or a case history of sudden illness or death after water contact should raise suspicion of BGA poisoning. This may be supported if wild species (e.g., mice, muskrats, birds, snakes or fish) have also died in the vicinity. If BGA is suspected, water samples should be taken as soon as possible, in the same location where an animal fell ill after swimming.

PS: If you are a visitor to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area reserve and you frequently bring your canine companion/s with you, be sure to monitor them closely next year (after the Belstra-Harper CAFO is in full operation) and watch for signs of BGA toxicity. It would probably be advisable to NOT let them swim in the waters near Area 8 on warm summer and/or fall days.

PSS: If you are a politician and/or a CAFO supporter and/or the Property Manager for J-P F&W and you still believe the location of this particular CAFO presents no danger to area residents, pets and wildlife -- including endangered species who visit and/or reside in this region -- take a closer look at the BIG picture, and the potential lawsuits that could follow. Yes, we've had our water tested have most local area residents living nearby this facility.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and should not be considered a substitute for licensed professional care.

DIVISION OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, California - BGA Fact Sheet (pdf document)
DHS Environmental Toxicology Program, Oregon - Blue-green Algae Advisories
Sigma Alorich - Cyanobacterial Toxins
Microcystins as Initiators of Avian Botulism? (pdf)
Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents - Microcystins/essential data
Australian Research Network for Algal Toxins
Akademi University - Cyanobacterial Toxins
G-M Water Australia - Blue-Green Algae

Sunday, January 29, 2006

ps - I was wrong

ps - to the post "I Was Wrong..."

I just got off the phone from a pre-recorded call urging me to contact an Indiana Senator to "Vote No" to House Bill 1008 which in essence will give a foreign country ownership (licensed) of the Indiana toll road. Get full details on the Indiana toll road situation through this link.

It's odd -- although maybe just a coincidence -- that this call would come less than 1/2 and hour after I was reviewing the issue on Mr. Dvorak's blog, and research links to further information on Government and Press websites.

Is "Big Brother" watching?

If yes -- GREAT!! -- tell him to stop the Belstra-Harper sow-unit here in Jasper County, Indiana! :)

Meanwhile, I'm still looking for links to other Indiana politician blogs. Got any you can share? Please post them in comments. Thanks a bunch!

I Was Wrong - And I Admit It!

Ordinarily, I research first, gather facts, then form (and if asked - state) my opinion.

Yesterday I stated an opinion without doing all the research I maybe could -- and should -- have done... namely regarding politician blogs. Call it a "knee-jerk reaction" to a CNET news item.

After posting, having second thoughts on the issue, I began searching through some politician blogs, and thanks to one comment received from Mr. Kemp of kemplog, I was delighted to find Indiana's 8th District State Rep., Mr. Ryan Dvorak's blog.

Although I don't entirely agree with ALL of Mr. Dvorak's opinions, there are several opinions he expressed that I strongly agree with as well... In fact, having read through some of his blog, I feel sad that he is not a rep for our area.

From reading Mr. Dvorak's blog, his convictions on certain pressing issues for Indiana shine through in his posts, and his openness to comments is refreshing in a political scene that up to this point had appeared to me to be shunning the wants, needs, desires, hopes and dreams of its voting population.

Now back to Jasper County, Indiana -- if you know of any politician blogs from this County, I would surely love to hear about them. Searching for them through search engines has produced a TON of non-relevent results for me. Maybe there are no politicians from our area blogging yet?

You see, I'm trying to verify something else that was spoken to me...

One business lawyer stated it to me (I think it was meant to be "off the record" I won't mention his name here) -- "there are a lot of deals that happen in Jasper County behind the doors in smoke-filled rooms."

During our conversation he also mentioned the same goes for Lake County, but I definitely don't know anything about that situation. It's hard enough to fully grasp what's going on here in Jasper County.

The implications of his statement, being as he is from a fairly large legal firm that represents businesses here in Northern Indiana ...indeed, a firm that has publicly admitted to representing Belstra in the past... makes me think he, of all people, should know what he's talking about.

Perhaps his comments spoken personally to me have tainted my judgement regarding politicians in Jasper County.

In any case, on the subject of politician blogs I was wrong. Not entirely, since some blogs are almost worthless, but several are definitely worth reading -- and interacting with. It just might be a very POSITIVE step for politicians to enter the blogosphere.

I was wrong. I admit it. At least I have the courage to admit when I think I'm wrong.

Now if only IDEM can admit they were wrong to issue the sow-unit permit to Belstra, opening the doors for destruction of critical wildlife habitat here in Jasper County...

p.s. And if you happen to know where these "smoke-filled rooms" are, I'd like to know more about them, too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Would a politician's blog change this picture?

I read an interesting article just now over at CNET titled "Congress catching on to the value of blogs" and posted my own comment titled "Agreed!" under one commenter's post about being skeptical.

After all, would any prominent Indiana politician's blog really change the picture of what's happening regarding hog factory-farms here in Jasper County? ...or elsewhere in Indiana for that matter?

They know the problems that exist regarding these facilities. (Read my posts here for all the shocking details.)

They know there are several environmental issues that need immediate and swift action to overcome.

And yet, they...

- ignore citizen complaints (as in our case)

- ignore 1,000-name petitions (such as ours)

- refuse to act on EVIDENCE of violations

(such as the pictures we submitted to several enforcement bodies of the Belstra facility pouring concrete on ICE ...a dangerous practice that is strictly prohibited by concrete experts)

- refuse to act on any complaints for issues arising on factory-farms in operation for one year or more

(one poor lady in Newton County can tell you a horrifying story about that!)

- refuse to conduct full environmental impact studies and HALT expansion and/or new CAFO growth until they are conducted and environmental safety can be guaranteed

- refuse to HALT construction when an IDEM certificate issued is facing appeal (such as in our case)

- could care less about the harm to wildlife these factory-farms can bring

(They don't even care that this particular facility is right in the center of major migratory Sandhill Crane staging zone, a designated IBA, and habitat area to an endangered species - the fragile Whooping Crane population)

The list goes on and on...

If they had a blog, I wonder if they'd even resort to outright lying about the proven negative impacts these hog factories have on the environment -- land, water, air and soil? And I truly wonder how they would "paint their pretty pictures" to sway public opinion so they can proceed with their personal agendas without complaint?

It would be interesting, although probably not conducive to positive changes in any degree, in my humble opinion...

But who knows -- maybe I'm wrong, and somewhere out there, there are politicians who truly care, who truly want to leave this world in better condition than they found it.

For all our sakes, I certainly hope so!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Puh-leeeeeease Stop Lying To Me About CAFOs

Note to Indiana Politicians:

You know, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of Government officials and politicians who are trying to sell me on the benefits of hog factory farms by skewing statistics and/or outright lying about how these facilities operate in order to bring more and more of them into Indiana.

For one thing, stop telling me these facilities don't use a lot of water.

According to the Ontario Pork Association:

Water accounts for as much as 82% of the body weight in the 1.5 kg new born pig and declines to 53% in the market weight pig.

Keep in mind, the Belstra-Harper factory farm is a swine farrowing facility, meaning they are breeding/raising piglets -- a far higher amount of water will be required per pregnant and lactating animal here than in standard swine operations.

Here are the Industry Recommended Daily Water Requirments based on an efficient swine operation:

Growing Pigs - to 90 kg.(200 lb) require 1.8 to 2.2 litres per day @15 kg.

Growing Pigs - 6.8 litres per day @ 90 kg.

Sows Non-pregnant - 5.5 litres per day

Sows Pregnant - 5.5 to 9 litres per day

Sows Lactating - 17 to 22 litres per day

Naturally, the above requirments vary, depending on the amount of feed given. The recommonded water/feed ratios are:

Water : Feed Intake
10-22 weeks of age -- average intake of 2.56kg of water/1kg feed
16-18 weeks of age -- average intake 7kg of water/2.7kg feed

Don't forget the amount of water that will be required to clean cages/pens, irrigate land after manure application, etc., etc., etc.

You're allowing -- no, you're CONDONING -- the Belstra-Harper facility to park itself right on the doorstep of one of the few rich wetlands left in this sector of Indiana. Now, try for a minute to be honest and tell me... do you honestly believe this 2,500-head facility filled with pregnant and/or lactating sows won't be placing serious demands on water in this region.

How much of those wetlands will be disappearing altogether? How many of our wells will be drying up? How many ditches, streams and ponds will be bone dry (or polluted to heck) 5 years from now?

For heaven's sake, I'm no scientist, but even I can see the BIG picture here that you're so vehemently trying to evade and doing your best to ignore.

Pull your heads out of the sand and give them a strong, hard shake.

And while your at it, how about doing a little more research on the current fresh water crisis encroaching on our Nation.

And you tell me how good for our economy these facilities are. Well let's just look at that picture from the water requirements point of view, shall we?

U.S. Faces Day of Reckoning, New York Times - "The same amount of water it takes to support just 10 farm jobs can support 100,000 high-tech jobs, according to Peter Gleick, a water expert with the nonprofit Pacific Institute in Oakland, California"

As for the money these facilities bring into the economy -- oh, puh-leeeeeease! Do I have to call on the Freedom of Information Act to request the amount of subsidies factory farms in just Jasper County, Newton County and Benton County have relied on to stay afloat this past decade. Do you really want tax payers across the nation to find out how much of their tax dollars have been going to support facilities such as this one?

I really don't think you want that can of worms coming to the surface.

Speaking of worms, let's get back to that soil pollution issue...

Okay, I'm out of time tonight.

But I'll be back with more detail on that -- including the new study out regarding garden grubs, and how they are aiding in the spread of E. Coli thanks to factory farm manure disposal/application methods.

Until then -- just STOP lying, fess up to facts, and let's deal with real issues (not twisted statistics used only to support your own agenda) thank you very much.

*steps off soapbox and leaves the stage*

~ for now ~

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yes you can help stop CAFOs in Indiana

I've received several emails as well as comments regarding my post yesterday "Taxation Without Representation" and have some answers to one blogger's questions:

At 9:14 AM, A friend said...
I wish you much luck in your fight against these horrible cafo's. Is there something that other people can do to support your cause? Is there an organization that is set up to help people in your situation? Have you visited the Grace family farm website dedicated to fight CAFO's?
I'll answer the last question first ... yes, we've been in almost constant contact with GRACE since this particular hog factory farm showed up in our area. They've been most helpful providing us with tons of information, recommendations and morale support.

In answer to the first question - yes, you can help stop the overwhelming flood of CAFOs that have been springing up since 2001 all over the State of Indiana... but to be fair, you need to be aware of the major strategic initiative set out by Governor Mitch Daniels and spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Becky Stillman.

For full details, you can view the streaming media version of their first confernce on the subject "Possibilities Unbound: Plan for 2025 - Indiana Strategic Plan for Agriculture" (if you have version 10 of Windows Media) available through this link.

- Knowing their plans include DOUBLING pork production in the State of Indiana, and

- Knowing they plan to enact legislation (and have already begun doing so) that would make starting CAFOs in Indiana far easier, and

- Knowing that they have already installed officials in critical key job positions to make their strategic plan come together (such as the head of IDEM itself)

...then you become aware that the issue is much bigger than one CAFO next to a large and very important wildlife reserve in the heart of Northwestern Indiana - namely the Belstra-Harper Sow Unit ID #6383 here in Jasper County.

The first and most important step is contacting all local, state, and federal representatives -- here's a link to an article I wrote with contact links that may help -- protesting these facilities and requesting FULL RESEARCH AND REVIEW be properly conducted to ensure strong legislation is in place to protect -- citizens, our environment, animals (including the farm animals themselves) and our health and welfare -- prior to issuing any further CAFO permits in the State of Indiana.

In essence, a full and complete moratorium on CAFOs is desparately needed here in Indiana, before we become the next North Carolina.

To be fair, I doubt we will be able to stop IDEM from issuing further permits, but it's important elected officials know the numbers of tax-paying citizens against CAFOs are growing HUGE in Indiana, and that we don't want our State turned into one giant sewer from the over-abundance of manure (and related contaminants) these facilities produce.

If you're fighting a CAFO in your area, it's also important to be organized and I highly recommend the GRACE website as a good starting point. Also, you need the finances to be able to enter the legal battle...

For example, we opened a "Hog Farm Protest" bank account at our small National City branch in Wheatfield where residents have been chipping in to help pay for our legal fees on this case. Understand, that these are not tax-deductable charity donations, but that it's one way in which your entire neighborhood (and beyond) can help in the fight financially.

Also, in our case, there is a major wildlife concern/issue, so we've also been in touch with several wildlife conservation organizations both at the local area level and beyond. Some organizations, such as Audubon, have been wonderfully supportive and have helped us gather the scientific reports and additional research materials we need to fight for the innocent wildlife victims in this case.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly?) some of the wildlife organizations have been extremely helpful behind the scenes but have preferred to be kept annonymous owing to major troubles and conflicts they've faced in the past fighting CAFOs just like this situation. It's been a real eye-opener for me uncovering what's happened in previous years regarding the CAFO issue. Who knows -- maybe someday I'll right a book on this journey into CAFO awareness. Some of my discoveries have been downright shocking, in my humble opinion.

PS: to really get an eyefull of how serious the CAFO situation in Indiana has become, check out the Kemplog article "CAFO's: Where Do We Stand"

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Taxation Without Representation

I had an interesting chat with our accountant's PR guy the other day ...about the Boston Tea Party (how we got on the subject is a long story that I won't get into here).

Since I didn't go to USA schools, I had only a general idea of what the Boston Tea Party was all about. Pat summed it up in 3 simple words:

"taxation without representation"

We've come a long way since those days, right?

...or have we?

When it comes to fighting industry giants in your own back yard, apparently not. Rural communities throughout the USA, not just here in small Jasper County, have been fighting large factory-style farms from coming into their neighborhoods for a long time now -- most without success.

Although the rural residents are the "victims" in each case, they have to go out and hire representation's not provided for them. Yes, these residents pay their taxes, and yet it appears to me they are a prime example of "taxation without representation" since in the majority of cases against these farms, the small taxpaying citizen generally ends up on the losing end of long battles, and surprisingly (or in Indiana at least, maybe not so surprising) most political reps are in favor of the factory farms.

But of course, they don't have to live next to a hog factory farm.

They know they cause problems for residents in areas where these farms spring up. They also know these factories cause harm to the environments and can also be harmful to health and welfare of residents and wildlife.

They know what's happening, and yet choose to stand by while these factories proliferate and pollute the land.

It's like having an elephant in your living room and pretending it isn't there. I'm no expert on USA history or politics, but I would think that sooner or later, even if they refused to see something was wrong, they would have to smell it, wouldn't you agree?

On a brighter note, I noticed pork sales dropped dramatically last month, even though hog slaughter remained seasonally heavy -- fresh ham prices plunged by $29/cwt. We've banned ALL PORK in our home until we can find a farm that produces it using traditional sustainable farming methods. Our neighbors are doing the same. Most all of our friends and family are doing the same.

We also have a personal ban on Hormel Food products, the company that uses PIC genetically engineered hogs from Belstra's operations (although they refused to confirm or deny this when I contacted them by email -- yet Belstra's website clearly indicates they are the buyer).

It's not much, but it feels better just knowing we aren't contributing to the factory farm problem -- that we're part of the solution, instead.

Ah well ...stay tuned as we go to the preliminary hearing coming up in just over a week.

Wish us luck. We're going to need it!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tourism, Indiana, Hog Farms

You know, I've talked a great deal about the health challenges both residents and wildlife will be faced with when the Belstra/Harper Sow unit (CAFO factory farm) goes into operation. One detail overlooked by the BZA and other supporters of this particular CAFO (and even the DNR themselves) is the HUGE negative impact it will have on tourism to this area.

Think about it ...the facility butts right up against the J-P Fish & Wildlife Reserve.

Tens of thousands of tourists visit this area each and every year. Many visit here to hunt deer and coon. Some visit here to fish. Several visit to use the target range. Many visit here to watch the majestic cranes on their migratory path from the state-run bird observation deck built and paid for in a large part by tax dollars... and many tourists even visit just to have a place to enjoy the outdoors with their children or unite in a public park for family reunions and/or picnics. It's one of the closest things we have to "wilderness" in this region.

Oh... and did I forget to mention the races that are held on the far side of the reserve each week through the summer months? Many race drivers and fans drive by our home each weekend all summer long.

The Jasper County BZA located several miles away in Rensellaer probably couldn't care less about the revenues tourists bring to our area. Demotte, Bellstra's home town, probably could care less (I'm referring to city officials, not residents, since I know some Demotte residents are mad as heck about this particular hog factory going forward).

So, in summary, about 5 to 7 outsiders will have jobs. Local residents, game reserve workers and all wildlife will have to suffer the consequences of this hog factory daily. And as for tourism in our area?

This quote from the post "Other views: Don't allow big hog feeder to water down regulations" posted at Inforum Opinions on Dec. 17/2005 probably describes it best:
Dr. Bill Weida, project director and economic consultant of GRACE Factory Farm Project visited Devils Lake in 2003. Dr. Weida stated: “In an area like Devils Lake, where tourism is a mainstay of the economy and clean water and pristine air are an attraction, hog CAFOs are deadly. No one wants to visit a place where hog odor permeates the environment and the waters are polluted by excess nutrients.”
By the way, having lived in this area for more than 6 years now, I know which way the wind tends to blow most on those hot summer days and nights. Grant you, living less than 2500 feet from this hog factory, I probably won't be sleeping so well at nights... but I can tell you right now, that game reserve is going to be in even worse state from the smell.

If you are a frequent visitor and/or have visited Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Reserve in the past, make sure you contact Indiana politicians to let them know you DON'T want this hog factory going into operation -- before it's too late.