Human Exposure to Toxins a Dangerous Threat
COLOMA, WI – Last week, a coalition of grassroots groups concerned with DNR issuing a permit that allows for testing human exposure to untreated waste wrote to Kitty Rhoades, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, urging her to immediately halt this testing.
“Safe handling and disposal of agricultural waste is the responsibility of our state agency which exists to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Wisconsin,” said Bob Clarke, president Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network. “As head of DHS, Secretary Rhoades has the moral and ethical responsibility to put a stop to this non-scientific testing.”
Industrial farming has created an unprecedented volume of sewage with the state’s rapidly expanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) now numbering over 250. In response, the dairy industry is promoting aerial spraying systems to disperse this untreated toxic waste.
DNR admits to the presence of pathogens in manure, many harmful to human health, such as campylobacter, salmonella, and E.coli. Currently underway is field research on human exposure to pathogens via spray irrigation funded by DNR. A Manure Workgroup was also formed to study the data as well as reports submitted by the public.
Before this research was officially concluded, DNR issued a water pollution permit to Ebert Dairy Enterprises, a CAFO in Kewaunee County, giving the operation immediate approval for aerial manure spraying to begin.
Residents in Kewaunee County are concerned with contamination of their water, intensified odors and sickening exposure to drift which threatens their homes, lakes and parks and nearby restaurants.
“As an ecologist with experience in microbiology, I am appalled with this idea,” said Dr. Robert Wallace, Biology professor at Ripon College.
Robyn Mulhaney of Algoma, co-owner of a small business which exhibits the works of artists and is dependent on tourism, says “Busloads of people tour our establishment and display gardens here. We have 50-60,000 visitors throughout the season and welcome seniors and special needs groups. Dangerous exposure to drift within a county that currently supplies wind turbine energy would be sufficient to destroy my business and the health of my visitors. This is a travesty of the worse kind.”
Andrew Craig, DNR Resource Specialist, states his department’s position in a letter dated October of 2013 addressing community concerns. “We remain committed to adoption of new technologies…such as manure irrigation systems that…foster growth of the dairy industry in Wisconsin and are protective of human health.”
Dr. Peter Sigmann, retired internist, Medical College of Wisconsin, who resides in Sturgeon Bay, comments on the health consequences from spray irrigation. “I see the potential for widespread exposure to dangerous bacteria which could be difficult to treat. It is not in the realm of imagination to predict disease of epidemic proportions.”
Concerned citizens know that when manure sprayers are permitted for one CAFO, legislation will follow for adoption throughout the state. Grassroots groups ask for response and immediate action from Kitty Rhoades, Secretary Wisconsin Department of Health Services.