Factory Farms, Fouled Waters

Clean water is vital to our health, our environment, and our quality of life.

Environment Washington Research and Policy Center envisions a future where all of our waterways, from the Puget Sound to Lake Chelan, are clean and our drinking water is safe. One of the most critical steps to achieving this vision is to dramatically reduce pollution from agribusiness operations, specifically at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Washington State.

The estimated 200,000 adult dairy cows in Washington produce over 20 million pounds of manure each day, collectively. It is estimated that 2,500 dairy cows produce a waste load equivalent to a city of 411,000 people. What’s worse, unlike human waste, dairy waste is not treated; instead dairy waste at CAFOs is either stored in manure lagoons or applied to fields.

Credit: Waterkeeper Alliance, CC BY-SA 2.0

Unfortunately, given the quantity, manure is often over-applied to fields, and lagoons often contain millions of gallons of liquid waste where decomposing manure results in high concentrations of nitrites and nitrates. The lagoons and over-application not only pollute groundwater and surface water, but also pose a threat to human health, especially to infants.

Groundwater is the drinking water supply for approximately 60 percent of people who reside in Washington state. Several areas of the state with high concentrations of CAFOs have been found to have high levels of nitrates in drinking water. Nitrates are toxins. High doses particularly threaten pregnant mothers, babies, and seniors, causing methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby syndrome," which can be fatal.

Our goal is to raise the profile of the problem of agricultural pollution in our waterways. We know that Washingtonians care about the Puget Sound and clean water, but to change the way this pollution is managed, we need to educate the public and raise the profile and visibility of the problem.

Issue updates

Report | Environment Washington

Get the Lead Out

Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day. Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools and pre-schools across the country. As our report shows, states are failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school. Instead of waiting for more testing, we need to proactively remove the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment Washington

Washington State gets an ‘F’ for efforts to address lead in school drinking water

Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center (RPC) and WashPIRG Foundation gave Washington State an “F” grade for addressing the problem, according to a new national report. In the second edition of our Get The Lead Out study, the state showed poor progress as Washington State received an “F” grade in 2017. Representative Pollet and Steve Gilbert, a toxicologist, joined Environment Washington RPC and WashPIRG Foundation in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Washington’s schools and daycares.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment Washington Research and Policy Center

New report highlights how toxic “accidents waiting to happen” threaten U.S. waterways

Facilities storing billions of gallons of toxic waste threaten America’s rivers and millions of people who live near them, according to a new report from the Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, WashPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group.

> Keep Reading
Report | Environment Washington Research and Policy Center

Rough Waters Ahead

Puget Sound’s beauty hides some of the challenges it faces. Salmon and other wildlife populations struggle, past industrial pollution in some areas has made fish unsafe to eat, and untreated sewage pollutes shellfish beds. But with the dedicated work of local, state and federal governments – along with residents – the long process of restoring Puget Sound to health is underway. The U.S.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment Washington Research and Policy Center

Major Polluters Dumping into Washington Waterways

Major industrial facilities illegally dumped dangerous levels of pollution into Washington’s waterways 55 times over 21 months, according to a new report by Environment Washington Research and Policy Center. The facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution due to inaction by state and federal agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act. Environment Washington’s Troubled Waters report comes as the Trump administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed