Report, ECCSCM Water Monitoring Project, 2001-2003
ECCSCM volunteers sampled for E. coli bacteria and Dissolved Oxygen from 2001-2003, collecting a total of 430 water samples. Dissolved Oxygen was tested with a digital YSI 55 DO meter, and bacteria samples were transported as per the Quality Assurance Plan for testing at a DEQ-certified lab. Monitoring was conducted at 10-12 sites twice a month during most months, with weekly samples during the summer of 2002.
The Monitoring Project focused on specific sites of concern, given the recent change in agricultural land use. Whenever possible, sites were selected that drained only fields with manure-application, or as close as possible downstream, so that bacteria sources were limited. This Project was not intended to study water quality generally, or to be a comprehensive monitoring of all CAFOs.
Some critical sites were sampled repeatedly; others only sampled once or twice. During the two years, sites were added depending where manure application was taking place and at the request of citizens concerned about water quality in a particular stream stretch. All sample sites were accessible from road rights-of-way, either at stream crossings or at field tile outlets to road ditches, or by permission of private property owners.
270 of the 430 water samples tested violated Michigan's water standard for E. coli and/or Dissolved Oxygen. The E. coli standard for partial body contact such as wading is 1,000/100ml or lower. The DO standard is 5 mg/L or higher, for healthy aquatic life.
Major findings of the ECCSCM Monitoring Project include
(see details below):
Data from the ECCSCM project was submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ frequently responded to test results showing extreme contamination. With their own confirming data, the DEQ cited several CAFOs for illegal discharges, including multiple violations in April 2002, March 2003, and the holiday period, December 2003. (For ECCSCM Total Data in sortable Excel file, click here)
Major Finding – 1 – Streams of Concern
In the River Raisin Watershed, Bear Creek and its tributaries Henning Drain and Rice Lake Drain (Hudson, Dover Townships, Lenawee County), had the most samples (64 of 86) which violated water standards.
In the Bean/Tiffin Watershed, where the largest CAFOs are located and
apply the largest quantities of liquid waste, at least 3 stream stretches
tested regularly were shown to be at serious risk:
However, sites downstream from every CAFO included samples that violated E. coli water standards. The DEQ, based on its own samples, has cited every CAFO for illegal discharges, more than 50 violations 2001-2003.
The ECCSCM monitoring frequently observed sharp spikes and plummets at sites downstream from CAFOs, indicating highly variable inputs of bacteria. In some cases, liquid manure applications coincided with bacteria spikes. In other samples, no change in practice was evident, although drain connections at CAFO facilities continue to be a concern as a possible pathway of the pollution. No smoke or dye testing of drains has ever been done at these facilities.
The Rice Lake Drain at Haley Road, one of the most worrisome sites during the 2 year project, demonstrates the bacteria spikes and drops. 20 of the 30 water samples taken violated water standards, either for DO or for E. coli, or both. In 4 samples, E. coli tested TNTC (Too Numerous To Count):
Date Sampled E. coli count DO mg/L
Toad Creek at Mulberry Road in the Bean/Tiffin Watershed also showed extreme spikes and drops in bacteria levels. The site included one of the highest E. coli readings, at 297,000/100 ml on November 11, 2002, as well as testing TNTC 3 times.
Date Sampled E. coli Count
Most illegal manure discharges confirmed by the Department of Environmental Quality occurred after application of liquid manure to tiled fields, with the contaminated liquid percolating through the soils into drainage tiles, and flowing directly to streams.
During the Christmas holidays, 2003, for instance, after liquid manure application at many locations, 10 of 12 ECCSCM water samples (December 29, 2003) tested at bacteria levels Too Numerous To Count (TNTC). Four of those sites were field tile outlets flowing to Lime Lake Inlet from fields where Vreba-Hoff dairy CAFO had applied liquid manure.
Lime Lake Inlet sites tested TNTC eight times during the project, and exceeded the standard of 1,000/100 ml more than 30 times, including an E. coli count of 166,320/100ml on April 2, 2002.
Winter application on frozen ground, with no crops growing, is especially risky, often polluting through overland runoff first and then draining to tile inlets and flowing to sub-surface drains to streams. Rain, too, aggravates discharges through drainage tiles. Samples taken after 1/2" of rain on July 23, 2002, all violated water standards, incluidng 5 samples TNTC. On June 12, 2003, samples taken in rain also all had excessive bacterial contamination. However, because animal waste is so liquefied, it can reach field tiles without rainfall. ECCSCM monitoring found contaminated liquid discharging through tiles even in dry weather.
While each discharge event is a critical pollution problem, chronic pollution is also a serious problem and needs further study. Manure (sometimes called nutrient) pollution increases algal growth and lowers Dissolved Oxygen. This eutrophication process can be difficult to reverse. With very low DO levels, below 3 mg/L, many aquatic species are put at risk and fish die. Several streams in the ECCSCM project tested at catastrophically low DO levels. Throughout the summer of 2003, a tributary of Durfee Creek in Medina Township did not once register above 1 mg/L – this is a dead-zone for aquatic life.
Recommendations – To Protect Rural Watersheds
2 – Michigan should phase-out the application of liquid
manure to tiled fields.
(2)The location/siting/expansion rules concerning CAFOs must be watershed-based and must be required (not voluntary as now in Michigan). Herd-size reduction should be required in some small watersheds. While numbers of cows in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties have declined in the last decade as the scattered, small dairies were sold, much larger numbers of cows have been concentrated in a few locations and in certain small drainage areas – especially the Bean/Tiffin Watershed – where the liquefied waste from approximately 8,500 cows is now sprayed on tiled fields in the immediate vicinity of the CAFOs. In the first half of the 20th century, through the 1960’s, industrial and municipal facilities also localized large quantities of chemical and human waste, with non-existent or insufficient treatment. Since the Clean Water Act of 1972 and subsequent upgrades, industrial and municipal sources of pollution have sharply decreased. Livestock production, on the other hand, continues to apply larger and larger volumes of waste – each CAFO equivalent to a city of 15–60,000 people – with non-existent wastewater treatment.
In addition, Dr. Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair of Water Research at Michigan State University, and MSU graduate assistants accompanied the monitoring run of July 24, 2003, taking additional samples. Dr. Rose is an internationally-known authority in cryptosporidium and source tracking.
The worst stream stretches, with most samples violating
water standards, were: