Kewaunee CARES is one of 34 organizations from around the country to sign onto a petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to fight what the petitioners describe as “industrial livestock pollution.”

The 61-page petition concludes that the EPA has failed to require permits of all CAFOs that discharge waste into the environment, and requiring adequate safeguards in the permits that have been issued.

“Even in Wisconsin, where all CAFOs are required to have Clean Water Act permits, water contamination from mega-dairies is a widespread and growing threat to public health,” said Lynn Utesch, co-founder of Kewaunee Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship, in a comment to Food & Water Watch, a public interest and advocacy organization that is leading the petition effort. “Permits based on EPA’s weak regulations are clearly inadequate to protect rural communities and waterways.”

According to Food & Water Watch, “The petition asks EPA to remove loopholes that have enabled CAFOs to avoid permitting — especially the agency’s overbroad interpretation of the ‘agricultural stormwater’ exemption from regulation, which has swallowed the rule that CAFOs are point sources that require permits to discharge pollution.

“It also asks the EPA to require large corporate integrators that control CAFO practices to obtain permits, instead of just their contract producers, who currently bear the burden of following permits and managing waste.

“The petition further asks EPA to strengthen permits in several ways, including: requiring pollution monitoring and reporting, as is required of virtually all other industries; restricting waste disposal in order to better protect water quality; and regulating CAFO discharges of a wider range of pollutants than permits currently address, including the heavy metals and pharmaceuticals found in industrial livestock waste.”

Kate Fried, policy communications director of Food & Water Watch, said the groups are concerned about reports that President Trump plans to cut $2 billion and up to 3,000 employees from the EPA budget.

“This petition shows why the EPA’s budget should be maintained so that the Agency can do its job to protect communities from polluting sources such as CAFOs,” Fried said. “No matter who runs the EPA, it still has a mission to uphold.”

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