On Tuesday, May 18, the Missouri Clean Water Commission voted 5-1 to remove “perched water table” from the definition of “groundwater” in the design rules for concentrated feed operations.
“Perched water” is the term for temporary bodies of water that accumulate below the Earth’s surface. It is water that cracks foundations and basement walls over time as it flows to the water table or to a surface water source. Pollution of water perched with manure or other wastes from factory farms will create potentially significant pollution of streams, rivers and drinking water sources.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources received more than 850 public comments. Fewer than five were in favor of the rule change. The remaining 99% of comments – submitted by citizens, scientists, geologists and engineers – were opposed.
Opposing comments raised concerns about the pollution of streams, rivers and drinking water sources, the adverse health consequences of air pollution, degradation of nearby conservation areas and depletion of property values.
Groundwater professionals have said there is no scientific basis for excluding “perched water” from the regulations. The design requirements for other facilities, such as sewage treatment plants, do not leave out perched water. The perched water table is even closer to the surface than the water table, making it extremely vulnerable to infiltration from CAFO manure lagoons. For the millions of Missourians who depend on underground sources of drinking water, this level of risk is totally unacceptable.
The regulations show that the MRN has placed the interests of companies above the protection of groundwater. MNR is responsible for protecting groundwater, not prioritizing corporate profits.
This rule change poses a major threat to public health and the economic prosperity of our state. Once polluted, a perched water table can take 50 years or more to remove pollutants, making this type of pollution a serious long-term problem and a threat to the health and safety of all residents of Missouri. Pollution prevention is always less expensive than pollution control.
Changing the definition of groundwater to exclude perched water for CAFOs only shows a strong and scientifically unfounded bias on the part of these factory farms. Additionally, removing protections for perched water statewide does not address distinct challenges, such as water availability in the northeastern Missouri, or vulnerability to pollution in the region. karst of Ozarks.
According to state statutes, all members of the Clean Water Commission are expected to represent the general interest of the public. They are also believed to have knowledge and interest in controlling water contaminants. Recent action has shown that five of the six members of the Clean Water Commission do not share an interest.
We now have two options to combat this massive corporate intrusion into our state legislature and the Department of Natural Resources.
First, we need to let senators and representatives in our region know that we are concerned that these CAFOs are moving through Missouri, polluting our air and water, introducing pathogenic pathogens, and destroying the property values of neighboring farms.
Second, we need to prioritize buying local food from farmers’ markets, asking ourselves questions about where our food comes from, and even growing or raising it ourselves.