Factory farms a stinky issue

About 35 northwest Ohio residents gathered last night to talk about bull crap – literally.

Cow manure that seeps into the ground poses a number of environmental and health risks, said Dave Housholder, vice president of Wood County Citizens Opposed to Factory Farms.

Factory farms, such as the one located in Wood County near Weston, raise several hundred dairy cows and dump their manure on the ground, Housholder said.

He then passed around a schematic of the drainage tile buried under Wood County’s surface, describing its inability to properly handle liquid manure.

“If you’ve ever had a woman show up on your back door crying because her house has been declared lost – and she and her husband have declared bankruptcy – you understand the importance of drainage,” Housholder said.

Among the health risks posed by standing manure include e-coli, listeria, salmonella and other organisms capable of causing disease in humans, according to materials distributed by WCCOFF.

The materials also give detail on environmental pollutants found in bovine waste, such as phosphorus and nitrogen entering the water – chemicals that are toxic to fish.

The manure also releases hydrogen sulfide, which could cause brain damage in humans, according to the New York Department of Health’s Web site.

Housholder is also the trustee for Portage Township, where another factory farm has been proposed for construction.

“Should I go to my constituents and ask for money to bring in an operation they don’t want to come in?” Housholder asked his audience.

Patrick Ng, one of the founding members of WCCOFF when it formed about five years ago, said he is in the activist group to work toward change in factory farms’ practices.

“Right now, we try to stop them from coming in,” Ng said. “We want to have a moratorium because there are not enough studies on manure.”

Ng said he joined the WCCOFF while he was on Bowling Green’s City Council.

“At that time, I was concerned with the pollution entering the Maumee River,” he said. “The manure [from the Weston factory farm] could overflow into the Maumee, which is one mile west of the Bowling Green water intake.”

Last night’s discussion was part of the Wood County Public Forum series of talks organized by a group called Democracy for Northwest Ohio.

According to Lee McLaird, coordinator for the organization, the Public Forum series is a place where the public can discuss issues that are important to them as informed voters.

Katie Hartwell, a senior education major at the University, attended the discussion last night.

“All I know is that a lot of people have a lot of very strong opinions [on this topic], especially in this area, and I want to educate myself on why I should care,” Hartwell said prior to the presentation’s start.