August 5, 2016
Groups File Comments Seeking Rejection of Oregon Mega-Livestock Operation
Cite Significant Impacts to Water, Air and Public Health
Salem, OR – This week, a wide range of environmental, family farm, public health and animal welfare organizations jointly submitted comments urging the State of Oregon to reject a proposed 30,000-head confinement dairy operation near the Columbia River. The facility would be one of the nation’s largest dairy confined animal feeding operations and poses a major threat to ground and surface water, air quality and public health in the region.
The facility, Lost Valley Ranch, is seeking a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Oregon Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Quality. Though the facility would produce more biological waste than most Oregon cities, it is proposed for the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, which is impacted by elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater that in many areas exceed federal safe drinking water standards, or which contain excess pathogens from manure and bio-solids.
“We are concerned about the potential human health problems of adding more nitrogen and pathogens into the Lower Umatilla Basin aquifer,” said Kelly Campbell, executive director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
In addition to water quality concerns, the facility would be a significant new source of air pollution in a region already impacted by emissions from several nearby large confined animal feeding operations and industrial sources. The Oregon Dairy Air Quality Task Force in 2008 found that dairies and other animal feeding operations emit a wide range of pollutants including ammonia, nitrogen oxides, methane, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter, all of which pose public health risks in a region with declining air quality.
Despite this, the state has no plan to regulate, or even monitor, air emissions from the facility. “By ignoring the air pollution impacts of these kinds of mega-livestock operations altogether, Oregon is in effect subsidizing factory-scale livestock production,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director with Friends of Family Farmers, a small and mid-size farm advocacy group that served on the state’s Dairy Air Quality Task Force.
The proposal would produce roughly 187 million gallons of manure each year and use over 320 million gallons of water annually, raising questions on long-term impacts to the Umatilla basin and Columbia River as water becomes more scarce due to drought and climate change.
“The Oregon Department of Agriculture is tasked with both promoting and regulating agribusiness, and its conflict of interest is apparent in this proposal to permit a massive factory dairy, despite threats to water quality and public health,” said Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with Food & Water Watch.
“We urge the Oregon Department of Agriculture to deny this project,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This factory farm would use over 320 million gallons of water each year, taking water from endangered species like salmon and putting drinking water at risk.”
“The establishment of this factory farm would take a harmful toll on farm animal welfare, the environment and public health, and it would also be a step toward putting more of Oregon’s family farmers out of business. The Oregon Department of Agriculture should reject this proposal,” said Scott Beckstead, director of rural outreach for The Humane Society of the United States.
The organizations submitting the comments are Food & Water Watch, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Family Farmers, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, The Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity.