Today's biggest threat to our water

When most people think of water pollution, they picture BP’s drilling rig gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or old discharge pipes spewing chemicals or sewage into our rivers and streams. Research shows, however, that today one of the biggest threats to our water is how big corporations are running — and ruining — many of America’s farms. 

Factory farms crowd too many animals into one place with no place to put all their waste. Other corporate agribusinesses are spreading too much fertilizer and too many chemicals onto the land. And they’re taking too little care to keep all of this manure and other pollution out of our water.

The consequences include an enormous bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie that contaminated the drinking water for 500,000 people in Toledo; 100,000 miles of American rivers and streams that are now too polluted for swimming, drinking, and/or other uses; and huge biological “dead zones” from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico in which no life can survive.

That's why we’re working to reveal America’s next top polluter: Because once people know the truth, they will demand change.

How heavy is the toll that corporate agribusiness imposes on our water?

  • Each year, factory farms produce millions of tons of manure  more than the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. 
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture is "one of the largest sources of pollution" for more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams in the United States, along with 2,500 square miles of lakes and 2,900 square miles of estuaries. 
  • These waters are so polluted that they are unsafe for fishing, swimming, and/or wildlife. 

This agribusiness pollution is a leading cause of the dead zones that plague waters from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

Agribusiness pollution is so severe that it is beginning to threaten our drinking water as well:

  • In Ohio, runoff from agribusiness operations contributed to a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie which contaminated the drinking water for 500,000 people around Toledo with cyanotoxins in 2014. 
  • In Iowa, nitrate pollution from agribusiness operations have so badly polluted the Raccoon River that Des Moines is now suing three counties for failing to stop contamination of its main drinking water source.

From manure runoff to direct dumping

Agribusiness pollution runs throughout the industry’s operations  from factory farm manure to fertilizer and pesticide runoff from fields to direct dumping from processing plants.

Factory farms concentrate so many animals in one location that the volume of manure is virtually impossible to keep out of the water.

By and large, the practices needed to curb this pollution are well known  including buffer zones, cover crops, reduced fertilizer use, and holding factory farms accountable for every pound of poop they generate. But these big companies won’t stop polluting unless the public demands it.

It's time to reveal the truth

Unfortunately, few people really know about how corporate agribusiness is polluting our waterways.

Before we can press corporate agribusinesses to change or our elected officials to force them to change, we need to educate the public — to get people to make the connection between megafarms and water pollution in the same way they do with big oil or big chemical companies or big pipelines or big sewage plants.

That’s why we need you help to reveal America’s next top polluter. 

 

Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment America

Statement: House passes suite of clean water safeguards on “forever chemicals”

The U.S. House approved a bipartisan measure today to protect America’s water and air from toxic “forever chemicals” best known by the acronym PFAS. The PFAS Action Act (H.R. 535) passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 247–159. Environment America has long advocated for stronger protections on PFAS as part of its No Toxics On Tap campaign. The national nonpartisan organization successfully worked with Congress last year to phase out the military’s use of these chemicals in firefighting foams under the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. While that phaseout was a significant step, the PFAS Action Act takes further action to curtail continuing sources of pollution to water and air as well as establish new provisions to clean up existing contamination.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment America

Congress compels military to phase out PFAS but misses key opportunity

The U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan measure today compelling the Pentagon to stop using PFAS-containing firefighting foams by 2024. Both chambers of Congress have now approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the President is expected to sign into law before the end of the year. Negotiators notably omitted provisions to address PFAS pollution under Superfund and the Clean Water Act, both of which passed unanimously in the House bill.

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News Release | Environment America

Environmental groups urge Congress back to the table on PFAS

Two major environmental organizations are calling on Congress today to come back to the negotiating table to protect the public from toxic “forever chemicals.” Environment America and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) denounced the recent decision by lawmakers to drop critical protections against these chemicals from the National Defense Authorization Act.

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News Release | Environment America Research & Policy Center

102 groups urge EPA to rein in meat and poultry processing plant pollution

Environment America Research & Policy Center is submitting comments on behalf of 102 organizations today, urging the Environmental Protection Agency to dramatically reduce the massive levels of pollution dumped by agribusiness facilities into America’s waterways. The comments are in response to the agency’s decision not to update permit standards for meat and poultry plants -- despite the Clean Water Act’s requirement to do so.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: Dual EPA rollbacks weaken clean water protections against toxic coal waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released two proposals today to roll back clean water protections against waste from coal-fired power plants. The first proposal would overhaul wastewater rules, drastically weakening safeguards that prevent utilities from discharging toxic pollutants like arsenic, lead and mercury into America’s waterways. The second proposal would significantly extend closure dates for coal ash disposal sites, allowing utilities to continue storing toxic coal debris in ponds that can leak or overflow, for decades.

> Keep Reading

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