NYT: Farm Runoff is Polluting Nearby Residents’ Water Wells

Runoff, often from cow manure spread on grain fields, can result in parasites and bacteria seeping into drinking water.A New York Times investigation into worsening U.S. water pollution details how unregulated farm runoff is poisoning people’s wells.

Last Thursday’s report on the investigation found that runoff from all but the nation’s largest farms is subject to few if any federal regulations, and that state and county regulations have failed to protect some nearby residents. The runoff, often from cow manure spread on grain fields, can result in parasites and bacteria seeping into drinking water, leading to chronic illnesses and infections for those living near the fields.

In Morrison, Wisconsin, local officials told the Times that more than 100 wells were polluted by agricultural runoff within a few months. As parasites and bacteria seeped into drinking water, residents suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and severe ear infections. Tests of one woman’s water found E. coli, coliform bacteria and other contaminants found in manure. The woman’s 5-year-old son developed ear infections that eventually required an operation.

To address the problem, the Times report said, large farms like those with at least 700 cows are supposed to be covered by special Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) rules. But E.P.A. officials say thousands of large animal feedlots that should be regulated by the special rules escape oversight because the farmers never file the necessary paperwork.

The investigation is part of the Times’ ongoing Toxic Waters series.

Previous Toxic Waters reports have found that fewer than three percent of the more than 500,000 violations of the Clean Water Act over the past five years resulted in fines or other substantial penalties by state officials, and that 40 percent of the country’s community water systems violated the Safe Drinking Water Act at least once last year.

Read more here and here.

Source: The New York Times.

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