Thursday, March 29, 2007

CAFO Burden of Proof

Remember the pictures I promised to post today? Here you go... two pics taken by IDEM at the "new" Shuringa Poultry-turned-calf CAFO, complete with IDEM comments of who was present during the shots.

The two "little mounds" pictured below are sitting atop the mountain of flyash delivered to the CAFO:

Note Photo 3 below, how large the "mountain" area is... and keep in mind again, how close to the land surface our aquifer runs.

Here's a better view of "Shuringa/denDulk Flyash Mountain" that we took today, as seen through the trees from the road. It's a lot whiter today than it appears in IDEM's pics. Notice the 2 mounds on top of it (also pictured close up in IDEM's shot above)?

It kind of looks like a GIANT SUBMARINE from the road. Kind of hard to see it if you weren't actually looking for it because they hid the mountain behind the barns tucked back in a field hidden by trees growing along Wolf Creek.

And wouldya look at how close to that creek it is? From those foreground trees to the pile. Tsk, tsk, tsk... shame on you guys!

Now, what does this "unauthorized fill" (NIPSCO's definition of the material hauled to the Shuringa Poultry aka Wolf Creek Calf CAFO by Walstra Trucking) contain?

From what I've gathered, C-Stone, the "lable" given to this particular fill, is aggregate coal flyash material, and can be either "Class C" or "Class F." Here's just a brief description of the difference between C and F as described in a West Virginia University document - "WATER QUALITY EFFECTS OF BENEFICIAL CCBS USE AT COAL MINES":
Coal combustion products can be grouped into four main classes: 1) Class F ashes; 2) Class C ashes; 3) Fluidized Bed Combustion ashes; and 4) Flue Gas Desulfurization solids. Class F and C ashes are produced in large pulverized coal boilers. They comprise the bulk of CCBs produced in the United States. They are distinguished by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) on the basis of their free lime (CaO) content2. Class F ashes have less than 10% lime while Class C ashes have more than 10% lime. Nearly all ashes produced by pulverized coal boilers in the eastern United States are Class F while those burning western United States coal are typically Class C...

The CCPs can be placed in permeable or impermeable forms. At one end of the spectrum, bottom ashes have the hydraulic conductivity of gravel, while fly ash is closer to silt. Class F ashes tend to be more permeable than class C ashes due to the tendency of class C ashes to self-cement. At the opposite extreme, fixated FGD solids have very low hydraulic conductivity, and the various CCP grouts behave like concrete and are virtually impermeable.

Nearly all CCPs contain soluble and insoluble salts. If permeable and exposed to groundwater, soluble salts will dissolve. These include salts of boron, chlorides, and sodium carbonates. On the other hand, the solubility of sulfates and calcium or magnesium carbonates is controlled by their concentrations in the mine water. It is not unusual to find mine waters that are already saturated with respect to gypsum or calcium carbonate. In such cases, little or no net dissolution will occur. Care should be taken that CCPs containing substantial amounts of soluble salts are not exposed to zones of significant groundwater flux.
If the above sounds confusing, not to worry. Tests of the material hauled to the Shuringa Poultry-turned-calf CAFO have been sent to a lab for testing. We'll know soon enough what it actually contains.

I'm still rather curious if it is "Class C" or "Class F" material...

An interesting aside... Back about 1990, my husband was working at the NIPSCO plant (where this material came from) and remembers going in one day to find signs warning to wear respirators in the area they were doing construction -- he recalls the big arsenic signs going up and wondered why, the previous time they were working there, there were no such signs. The information he was given at the time was that they had changed the source for their coal supply, and the new type of coal generated higher concentrations of arsenic which required further safety precautions on site.

But I digress. What does all this have to do with "burden of proof" with respect to CAFOs?

Well, above and beyond the "unauthorized" mystery fill being dumped and spread on the land near residential homes in this area, there's strong pressure at the Federal level to exempt CAFOs from important enviromental laws.

If you haven't yet read this article in the Demoines Register, you might want to take a quick look at it now (link). Here's just a brief snapshot:
EPA wants exemption for livestock farms - Washington, D.C. - The Bush administration is moving to protect livestock farms from pollution reporting rules and potential liability for manure runoff.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to exempt farms from having to report emissions of ammonia and other air pollutants under the federal Superfund law, said Jon Scholl, the agency's agriculture adviser. The agency also will clarify that manure should not be considered a hazardous waste when properly used as fertilizer, he said.

Scholl, who outlined the agency's plans at a livestock industry meeting Tuesday, said the agency wants to finalize the actions by fall 2008, shortly before President Bush leaves office.
Here in Indiana, there's quite a bit of heat being taken by politicians attempting to set new CAFO guidelines, as picked up by Kemplog (link):
Saunders said the bill got 62 votes in the House, so it had bipartisan support, but it’s not easy being a Republican supporting more regulation of agriculture. “Our Republican caucus has several large hog farmers. Behind closed doors, I’ve taken some heat,” Saunders said. “There’s a lot of lobbying. Those who have been talking (of the bill) have to keep it up.”
Now there's a tasty "Conflict of Interest" story waiting to be exposed by some astute reporter out there. I wonder which pockets stand to profit by pushing this new EPA legislation through?

Is it really the EPA pushing for it? If so, I'm smelling more than a story at that particular Agency. If not, then I'm curious if the same "unnamed" masterminds behind the USA Attorney firings are helping in the orchestration of this new EPA initiative, and if anyone at the EPA have been working in fear for their jobs lately?

Because, according to one former Big Ag marketer, there is good reason to be alarmed about the changing face of Agriculture across the USA...

John Ikerd, a professor emeritus of agricultural economics from the University of Missouri, was recently quoted in Times-News (link) saying,
"I don't think there is any doubt anymore there are significant health risks associated with CAFOs."
The article is worth reading. It ends with another poignant quote from Ikerd:
Ikerd advised the crowd - who were mostly CAFO opponents, judging by applause - to convince local politicians to strictly regulate CAFOs before small farms are gone and the rural landscape is desecrated.

"The burden of proof should be on the dairy that it isn't polluting the environment," he said. "Not on the people to prove that it will."
We, the taxpayers who pay the salaries for EPA, IDEM, etc. agree. The U.S. Attornies might "serve at the pleasure of the president" ...but all taxpayer-funded agencies, political positions, and more "serve at the pleasure of the taxpayers." Maybe they just forgot who really foots the bill?

No comments: