The world of farming as we know and recognize it has changed completely thanks to industrialized animal agriculture. Concentrated Feeding Operations, also known as factory farms, house thousands of animals in a single area. In the past, animal farming took place on a much smaller scale, spread out across the country. By consolidating these farms into single, giant facilities we have seen an influx of major environmental concerns that spawn from producing thousands – if not millions – of animals all at once.

U.S. factory farms produce more than 500 million tons of manure every year and it all gets stored in massive waste lagoons. These giant cesspools contribute significantly to a rise in ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, methane and other harmful compounds in the surrounding air. A recent study even found that air near feedlots has high concentrations of particulate matter containing animal feces and antibiotics.

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And water pollution concerns are equally troubling. At least 170, 750 miles of river in the U.S. have been labeled “impaired” due to agricultural run-off. Given the fact that over 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure polluted waterways, this should not be taken lightly.

People who live in the vicinity of a factory farm are subject to polluted air and water and are forced to suffer the negative health impacts. Yet, despite this fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has continually failed to regulate pollution from factory farms.

“Factory farm air pollution harms public health, the environment and rural quality of life,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Yet EPA is looking the other way while citizen pleas for action collect dust on the agency’s shelf. EPA has acknowledged the harmful impacts of factory farm air pollution for over a decade, yet is still failing to act on the problem.”

In 2009 and 2011, a coalition of organizations, including: Environmental Integrity Project, the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Clean Wisconsin, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Association of Irritated Residents, filed lawsuits against the EPA for failure to address factory farm pollution. As evidence that factory farms are destroying the environmental integrity of the United States mounts, the EPA’s lack of regulation is utterly unacceptable.

The coalition has just filed a new lawsuit against the EPA on behalf of the citizens whose health and well-being is being jeopardized by their refusal to act.

Rosie Partridge, a family farmer whose home in Sac County, Iowa, is surrounded by more than 30,000 hogs within four miles, knows the damage that factory farm pollution can do first hand, “When the emissions are at their worst, we have had to leave our home for days at a time. The ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are so strong that my husband has trouble breathing.”

Seeing as there are over 20,000 factory farms in the U.S., the Patridge family is hardly alone.

Factory farms should not be allowed a free pass to pollute our air and waterways. We can live without mass-produced bacon … air and water? Not so much.

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Image source: Socially Responsible Agriculture/Flickr