Public Lab Research note

How to Help Citizens Affected by Factory Farming? #waterquality #airquality #CAFO #factoryfarms

by zengirl2 | December 16, 2017 23:14 16 Dec 23:14 | #15387 | #15387

The Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) recently held their Factory Farm Summit in Maryland, a hotspot for factory farm activity in the Delmarva area. The goal of the summit was to bring together experts on factory farm issues with those people that have been affected. As you may imagine, over a hundred people showed up on any given day, including representation from MI, IA, OH, NY, NC, MD, DE, OR, CA , WI and PA. I was there on behalf of Public Lab for a panel discussion concerning Tools for Watchdogging and shared information on some of our kits including kite/balloon photography, Riffle and Hydrogen Sulfide detection. Although I was only there for two days, I wanted to share some takeaways from the testimonies I heard:

  • this problem is widespread with many having water quality and air quality affected (also outside of US)
  • there is a lack of information concerning the location of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)
  • frequently citizens affected cannot afford to move from their homes and are unprotected as particulate matter and gases can enter their homes with windows and doors shut
  • gases from operations include Hydrogen Sulfide and ammonia
  • some of these pollutants are unregulated
  • a testimony from a frantic family talked of severe asthma, vomiting blood, headaches and damaged lungs
  • severe health conditions have been documented (with many unaware that the cause is related to CAFOs)
  • the over-use of antibiotics in factory farming is also making antibiotics less effective for people
  • Sludge/mixture of lyme and dried sludge is now spread not only on fields, but also on median strips along highways
  • many communities are engaging in water quality testing
  • property values are dropping and people affected are not able to sell their homes
  • CAFO politics run strong making it difficult for a farmer that wants to leave the factory farm system
  • there are farmers that have been able to make the change to become sustainable

Of course the bright part of the summit was the connections made--to those facing the same issues, and those that have been able to affect change. I was able to hand out some kits with copper plate Hydrogen Sulfide detectors, hopeful that some may add their experience to the experiment posted on our site. There's a lot more that needs to be done; here's a few of the ways I think our community could be of help:

  • create a map, website or app of the location of CAFOs (similar to what is done with citizen science and watersheds)
  • test night-time balloon mapping techniques to monitor factory farm activity
  • partner with Skytruth or other orgs that deal with satellite/aerial imagery to help document CAFO violations
  • conduct research on DIY filters for particulate matter and gases
  • encourage documentation of CAFO problems on Public Lab and other websites

How else can we help those being affected by factory farming?


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