Aerial Photos Document Massive Flooding of 36 Factory Farms
Hurricane Matthew's rampage through North Carolina's coastal plain flooded more than 140 feces-strewn swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields, an analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Waterkeeper Alliance reveals.
From aerial surveys and imagery, the two organizations produced maps that provide the first publicly available, in-depth look at the impact of flooding on 36 factory farms along the Neuse, Black and Cape Fear rivers. As the images and maps show, dozens of confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs, were flooded along the sensitive plain, putting waterways, drinking water sources and public health at risk.
WaterKeeper Alliance / Google Earth
WaterKeeper Alliance / Google Earth
WaterKeeper Alliance / Google Earth
WaterKeeper Alliance / Google Earth
When floodwaters reach livestock confinement barns, waste pits or waste application fields, nearby surface water becomes contaminated with animal urine and feces, which contain a number of harmful pollutants including E. coli and salmonella. In the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, dangerous levels of E. coli and Clostridium were found in water samples even after the flooding receded.
After Hurricane Matthew, Waterkeeper Alliance coordinated 20 aerial surveys to assess flooding impacts on swine and poultry CAFOs in eight North Carolina counties. Pilots flew over floodplains, creeks and swamps. Aerial photos document the flooding of 10 swine operations, 26 poultry facilities and 14 open-air waste pits—an ugly reminder of the recklessness of concentrating animal feeding operations in a low-lying area inundated annually by tropical storms.
"Hurricane Matthew once again exposed the threat posed by the location of industrial animal agriculture operations in the floodplain," said Will Hendrick, North Carolina Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance. "Increasingly frequent and severe storms will continue to exacerbate the problems of current animal waste management practices until action is taken to protect our environment and public health from these vulnerable facilities."
After Hurricane Floyd, the state of North Carolina and Smithfield Farms moved to address the problem by closing or taking pollution prevention measures at CAFOs in the 100-year floodplain. The state spent nearly $20 million in taxpayer money to close a relatively small number of the most flood-vulnerable swine CAFOs.
"We need to be proactive in our preparedness for flood events," said Travis Graves, the Lower Neuse Riverkeeper. "After Hurricane Floyd we identified hundreds of at-risk facilities and removed some of them from the floodplain. Now we need to finish the job and get the rest of them out of harm's way."
In June, EWG, Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers released a first-of-its-kind, interactive map revealing the locations of more than 6,500 CAFOs, including at least 170 open-air manure pits within the 100-year floodplain.
As animal waste continues to dissolve into sensitive waterways, the groups called on policymakers to address the problem once and for all—before another major storm bears down on North Carolina.
"It's only a matter of time until the next storm inundates North Carolina's coast, swamping factory farms and churning up feces-laden waste into vital waterways, including those that are sources of drinking water for many North Carolinians," wrote Soren Rundquist, EWG's director of spatial analysis and lead author of the report.
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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