Report Finds Factory Farm Pollution is Killing Millions of Fish

Manure spills and dumping in 10 states killed 13 million fish from 1995 through 1998

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2000) – Manure spills and intentional manure dumping at factory farms in 10 states killed 13 million fish in the late 1990s, according to a new report by a coalition of environmental groups. The report, produced by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the Clean Water Network and the Izaak Walton League, documents more than 1,000 manure spills and 200 fish kills from 1995 through 1998. The report surveyed data from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin.

"Lagoon overflows and over-application of manure at factory farms are polluting our lakes and rivers, killing our fish and wildlife, and threatening public health," says Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. "The scope and severity of these pollution problems underscore the need for stronger federal and state regulation."

The Environmental Protection Agency is developing new federal standards for controlling pollution from factory farms (also called feedlots) under a consent decree with NRDC, which wants tighter regulations. "We urge the EPA to close the loopholes that allow factory farms to turn our rivers and lakes into manure sewers," says report co-author Merritt Frey of the Clean Water Network. "It's time to bring this industry into the 21st century and protect Americans from feedlot pollution."

The new report, titled "Spills and Kills," is the most complete analysis to date of feedlot water pollution problems. It documents improper land application of manure, spills and leaks from immense manure lagoons, equipment failures, and intentional manure dumping. These incidents, which deplete the oxygen in waterways, have led to massive fish kills in the 10 states surveyed by the report. For example, from 1995 to 1998, 250 manure spills in the five Midwest states bordering the upper Mississippi River killed more than 3.3 million fish. Midwest manure spills and factory farm runoff also contribute significantly to the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We collected and analyzed all the reliable information we could find," explains Frey, "but given there is no national tracking system for manure spills or fish kills, our data represents only a fraction of the actual number. We need a national tracking system to notify the public about pollution threats and to hold polluters accountable."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related Webpages
Full Report on the Clean Water Network website
Report Summary