Monitoring Water Pollution at Factory Farms

Session Date & Time: 
May 19, 2013 - 8:30am
Session Length: 
90 minutes
Skill Level: 

Stacy James, Water Resources Scientist: Prairie Rivers Network

Factory farms, or CAFOs, can severely degrade water quality in rivers and other water resources. Pollution from factory farms can also impact human health if drinking water supplies and aquatic recreational areas become contaminated with pathogens and other pollutants found in livestock waste. Factory farms can be an environmental justice issue in some watersheds; because of their unpleasant side effects, they often locate in poor communities lacking resources to oppose them. Factory farms continue to grow larger in size and number as small farms go under and the livestock industry seeks to expand exports abroad.

This workshop assumes participants know the basics about factory farms, and want to catch those that are polluters. The workshop will cover the various ways that livestock waste from factory farms can reach and pollute rivers, and what constitutes a discharge. Then there will be a discussion of ways that factory farms can be monitored to determine if pollution is being discharged; techniques will include stream monitoring, visual surveys, and aerial surveys. Building off of this information will be an interactive session where participants evaluate aerial photographs for signs that discharges are occurring. The workshop will end with a brief overview of steps that can be taken should there be evidence of a discharge.

Participants will leave with a solid foundation for how to initiate a factory farm pollution surveillance program in their watershed. The objective is that participants will feel motivated and empowered to monitor factory farms that they suspect may be causing water pollution problems. The information presented will be nationally applicable. Workshop content will be informed by the personal experiences and lessons learned of a scientist who has been working on factory farm pollution issues in Illinois since 2008.

Presenter Bio(s): 

Dr. Stacy James has been employed by Prairie Rivers Network as a Water Resources Scientist since 2006. She contributes to Prairie Rivers' mission to protect Illinois' clean water by working to reduce the amount of urban and agricultural pollution entering streams. Before joining Prairie Rivers, she was a post-doc at the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center in Missouri, where she conducted research on the effects of water pollution on amphibians.