Letter to the Editor: Factory farms, fracking affect water
To the Editor: Of all the water in the world, .0003 percent is available for human consumption - as well as for irrigation and industry, which includes factory farm animals. Seventy percent of water in western states is dedicated to raising animals. Look up the Ogallala Aquifer for a reality check.
Pennsylvania is rapidly following suit. Factory farms and relentless gas fracking is spreading throughout the state. Large quantities of water are critical to their success. While encouraging these industries, the state wants the individual to save every possible water drop.
Why is available water so scarce? The rest in locked in three places. The first is glaciers, which are rapidly melting, thereby increasing the world's average temperature and causing seas to rise. The second and largest percentage is saline or salt water that is expensive to convert and increasingly polluted. Of course, polluted is the third and increasing segment of water, most of which can be written off as not reusable. A recent victory for EPA is the fact that federal judges found against major agricultural lobbying groups attempting to soften regulations regarding "excess nutrients" impacting Chesapeake bay, the Mississippi delta and some of the Great Lakes.
Compounding the escalating depletion of usable ground water is population growth. We are seven billion heading for nine. Add climate change, as recently concluded by 95 percent of the scientific community. This has become painfully obvious with increased extreme storms in all seasons, resulting in floods, droughts and temperature extremes. The recent Colorado floods have resulted in unintended consequences of gas and oil chemicals from industry contaminating water supplies.
Yes, these problems are local and remember, all waterways are connected. Driving around my neighborhood, it looks idyllic. Farmers' homes, cropland, orchards and clusters of longtime residents' homes. We should sigh with relief; we're safe. After all, our township comprehensive plan addresses quality and quantity of ground and surface water resources: "Clearly pollution of this resource must be minimized, quality of ground water recharged must be maximized and the quality of surface water stabilized. The density of development, and thus, the demand for water, must be carefully controlled to avoid exceeding supply." Nice words!
A year ago, a two-hour hearing at which our supervisors heard a large group from the residential zone make a dramatic plea that they take a stand to protect this sliver of a township from its first factory farm, as they allowed in the other dominant zones. The large, smelly bags of dead flies from a nearby factory farm in the neighboring agricultural zone left them silent. But more telling was the reaction when the wife of a man living closest to the proposed chicken operation, placed a huge bag of mostly anti-rejection meds on their table. There was no reaction, not one question - even though they have a letter from his Philadelphia heart transplant surgeon.
Therefore, it is no surprise that after two contentious zoning board hearings, a corporate factory farmer has local permits in hand and is poised to begin two 500 feet industrial chicken buildings. Even though this field is literally surrounding by homes and wells, no hydrologist's report was done, nor requested by the local governing body.
Separate from the water, but still inherently connected, are looming consequences from runoff from stored chicken manure.
Of course. We need a smarter electrical grid, less of fossil fuels, but generally speaking, there are small things we each can do to begin protecting our environment. 1: Have meatless Mondays 2: report spills and leaks to DEP. 3: encourage local officials to protect source water. 4: dispose of waste oils at recycling centers. 5: keep animals out of streams. 6: pump your septic system every three to five years.
Land use restrictions designate compatible uses and aim to prevent environmental problems, but are often ignored. Indeed, even the Agricultural Security Area rules caution that local government has the right to control nuisances when they bear directly on public health and safety. Cleveland Township had the opportunity to secure this residential zone where family values, quiet seclusion, clean air and healthy water would keep this small area a sanctuary for people. They found for the few over the many, but there will be a reckoning. Remember, we all live downstream.