Today's biggest threat to our water

When most people think of water pollution, they picture BP’s drilling rig gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or old discharge pipes spewing chemicals or sewage into our rivers and streams. Research shows, however, that today one of the biggest threats to our water is how big corporations are running — and ruining — many of America’s farms. 

Factory farms crowd too many animals into one place with no place to put all their waste. Other corporate agribusinesses are spreading too much fertilizer and too many chemicals onto the land. And they’re taking too little care to keep all of this manure and other pollution out of our water.

The consequences include an enormous bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie that contaminated the drinking water for 500,000 people in Toledo; 100,000 miles of American rivers and streams that are now too polluted for swimming, drinking, and/or other uses; and huge biological “dead zones” from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico in which no life can survive.

That's why we’re working to reveal America’s next top polluter: Because once people know the truth, they will demand change.

How heavy is the toll that corporate agribusiness imposes on our water?

  • Each year, factory farms produce millions of tons of manure  more than the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. 
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agriculture is "one of the largest sources of pollution" for more than 100,000 miles of rivers and streams in the United States, along with 2,500 square miles of lakes and 2,900 square miles of estuaries. 
  • These waters are so polluted that they are unsafe for fishing, swimming, and/or wildlife. 

This agribusiness pollution is a leading cause of the dead zones that plague waters from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

Agribusiness pollution is so severe that it is beginning to threaten our drinking water as well:

  • In Ohio, runoff from agribusiness operations contributed to a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie which contaminated the drinking water for 500,000 people around Toledo with cyanotoxins in 2014. 
  • In Iowa, nitrate pollution from agribusiness operations have so badly polluted the Raccoon River that Des Moines is now suing three counties for failing to stop contamination of its main drinking water source.

From manure runoff to direct dumping

Agribusiness pollution runs throughout the industry’s operations  from factory farm manure to fertilizer and pesticide runoff from fields to direct dumping from processing plants.

Factory farms concentrate so many animals in one location that the volume of manure is virtually impossible to keep out of the water.

By and large, the practices needed to curb this pollution are well known  including buffer zones, cover crops, reduced fertilizer use, and holding factory farms accountable for every pound of poop they generate. But these big companies won’t stop polluting unless the public demands it.

It's time to reveal the truth

Unfortunately, few people really know about how corporate agribusiness is polluting our waterways.

Before we can press corporate agribusinesses to change or our elected officials to force them to change, we need to educate the public — to get people to make the connection between megafarms and water pollution in the same way they do with big oil or big chemical companies or big pipelines or big sewage plants.

That’s why we need you help to reveal America’s next top polluter. 

 

Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment America

Senate approves 2023 ban on military’s toxic PFAS foams

The U.S. Senate passed its annual defense policy bill today with a host of provisions to address widespread drinking water contamination from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). One key provision would phase out the military’s use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams — a major source of pollution — by 2023. By incorporating our request to adopt a 3-year timeline for phasing out military use of PFAS, the Senate bill prevents further contamination quickly — which is what communities and service members deserve.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: House should adopt three-year phaseout of PFAS in military

The U.S. House Committee on Armed Services approved provisions in the annual defense policy bill early this morning that would phase out the military’s use of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams. Right now, Congress has a critical opportunity to stamp out a major threat to our public health. Millions of people across the country are currently drinking water contaminated with toxic PFAS chemicals. Eliminating the use of these chemicals is the best way to protect our drinking water from these dangerous substances.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: Senate hearing highlights need for clean water protections

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing this morning on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to replace the Clean Water Rule. The proposed rule would roll back protections for much of America’s network of waterways. The administration’s ‘Dirty Water Rule’ would leave vast networks of America’s rivers, lakes and streams vulnerable to pollution, endangering wildlife and public health. It flies in the face of common sense, sound science and public opinion.

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News Release | Environment America

Senate committee advances bipartisan bill to phase out PFAS in military

The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services today announced legislation to phase out the military’s use of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foams. As part of the annual defense spending bill, called The National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon would be restricted from purchasing PFAS foams after 2022, and prohibited from using PFAS foams after 2023. We applaud the bipartisan group of senators who came together this week to protect our drinking water from these toxic chemicals. Ending the use of these persistent, cancer-causing chemicals is the best way to prevent contamination. From Michigan to North Carolina, families are grateful for this week’s progress and counting on Congress to finish the job.

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News Release | Environment America

Statement: Congress holds three hearings on PFAS contamination

Congress is holding three hearings today to address widespread drinking water contamination from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). It’s encouraging to see lawmakers cross the aisle to tackle threats to the environment and public health together. Today’s hearings and the recent flurry of activity around PFAS demonstrate the public’s pervasive concern about these toxic chemicals. We urge Congress to adopt policies that truly keep our drinking water safe.

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