Manure Spills: The Environmental Damage We Don’t Hear About

Though environmental damage that’s caused by incidents like the 2010 BP oil spill receive national attention, more consistent – and sometimes larger – manure spills go unacknowledged.


| November 2014



Livestock Waste

Manure spills from livestock feed receive little public attention, but produce a large amount of environmental damage.


Photo by Fotolia/eevl

What exactly is in our food? In The Meaty Truth (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014), authors Shushana Castle and Amy-Lee Goodman examine the American population’s food supply, going into detail about how the current food supply is contaminated with toxins, antibiotics, untested growth hormones, ammonia and animal manure. This excerpt, which discusses the lack of awareness surrounding waste and manure spills at livestock feed lots, is from Chapter 2, “America the Beautiful: From Cesspool to Shining Cesspool.”

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Meaty Truth.

The Environmental Damage Caused by Livestock Waste and Manure Spills

In 2010, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made the front pages of newspapers for weeks, as images of the disaster took over the nightly news. The CEO of BP was put under tremendous scrutiny for the accident that sent 4.9 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. There was a public outcry, and hundreds of groups helped to clean up the spill. The BP oil spill was larger than the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which impacted 1,300 miles of ocean and killed an astounding 250,000 birds. Why are we talking about oil spills?

While oil spills receive nationwide coverage and public outcry, consistent lagoon spills occur all the time with zero nationwide and limited, if any, local coverage. Some of the lagoon spills are comparable to, if not bigger than, the Exxon Valdez spill. For instance, in 1995 a 120,000 square-foot lagoon at Oceanview Farms in North Carolina burst, sending twenty-five million gallons of feces and wastewater into the New River. The spill killed at least ten million fish and polluted 350,000 coastal acres of shellfish habitat. Dead fish began lining the banks of the river within two hours of the spill. The manure sludge was so dense it took two months for the sludge to make the sixteen-mile stretch down the New River to the ocean.

While the Oceanview Farms spill is double the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and considered the largest environmental spill, we are pretty sure most Americans have never heard of it. Neither, at the time, did citizens who were swimming in the river downstream. The government officials failed to warn them of the hog crap contaminated with E. coli heading their way. We highly doubt the same protocol would have been followed if it had been an oil spill. The Oceanview Farms spill has gone down in history as one of the greatest environmental disasters, which killed every living creature in its path in the North Carolina waterways. The Oceanview spill was bad enough, but that same year, three lagoons in North Carolina burst within two weeks of each other. One smaller lagoon spill occurred on the same day as the Oceanview spill in Sampson County. The other spill in Duplin County released nine million gallons of chicken waste into Limestone Creek, which is a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River. In comparison to oil spills, which rarely happen at the level of the BP and Exxon Valdez spills, lagoon spills are consistent, frequent, and pose comparable environmental damage with less coverage and support.

The Frequency of Spills and Pollution Incidents at Livestock Feed Lots

According to the National Resources Defense Council, “from 1995 to 1998, one thousand spills or pollution incidents occurred at livestock feed-lots in ten states and two hundred manure-related fish kills resulted in the death of thirteen million fish.” Not much has changed since that time.

vinicius
12/9/2014 6:51:45 PM

Vinícius C.S. EDI 2B/T2 The media default on some issues is an intriguing fact . The political and economic interests end up making something less concern in something very alarming . We just forget those facts that can really hurt us a lot. I liked the way the issue was addressed in the text.






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