April 14, 2024

Cancer-Related Disease and Deaths Spur Actions to Fight Farm Chemical Contamination in Corn Belt

When directors of the public water utility in Des Moines, Iowa, went to court in 2015 to try to stop toxic farm nutrients from contaminating the city’s drinking water, they knew the federal lawsuit they filed would be seen as not just a desperate step to protect public health, but also a brazen act of defiance that would provoke a ferocious response from Iowa’s powerful farm and political leadership. As they anticipated, a cohort of agricultural interests …

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Toxic Terrain’s Dogged Reporting

The essential purpose of project investigative journalism is to engage readers with new information about a subject of relevance and importance. In doing so, journalists seek to prompt changes in policy and behavior that benefit the public interest. As Upton Sinclair once said of his dogged journalism about the filth and danger of Chicago slaughterhouses: “The source and fountain-head of genuine reform in this matter is an enlightened public opinion.” Those who’ve followed my work …

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“We Can’t Sit Back”– Amid Polluted Water and Climbing Cancer Rates, Iowa Health Officials Eye Farm Chemicals

With one eye fixed on Iowa’s startlingly high cancer rate and the other wary of a political pushback, public health leaders are embracing a novel strategy for preventing malignancies in the nation’s largest farm state. In a departure from other state cancer prevention programs, which rarely address environmental risk factors for cancer other than radon, a known cause of lung cancer, Iowa is working to better understand and make the case for limiting exposure to …

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Only In Iowa; Barrels of Waste Buried On Farm Go Untested

The Iowa Capitol Dispatch, one of the fine non-profit online news organizations at the center of the country, posted an article last week by Jared Strong that caught my attention. Following more than a year of administrative pondering the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on November 30 fined a prominent cattle farm in Stockton $5,000 for illegally burying barrels of chemical waste on its land. Why, you ask, would such a modest fine issued by …

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Will Energy From Manure Help or Harm Water Quality in Michigan?

HARTFORD, MI – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to generate all of Michigan’s energy from renewable sources by 2040 is meant to limit climate change gases. It also has consequences for improving or damaging the state’s waters. Replacing polluting fossil fuel plants with cleaner energy sources would limit oil pipeline spills, curtail mercury contamination, and halt discharges from coal-fired power plants. But those benefits could be easily overwhelmed by the development of a new renewable energy …

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Manure Biodigesters Raising a Stink

AMES, IOWA – Because crop farmers can apply as much commercial fertilizer as they like to farmland, and livestock farmers spread over one billion tons of raw livestock feces and urine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified nutrient discharges from U.S. agriculture as “the single greatest challenge to our nation’s water quality.” The E.P.A.’s effort in stemming the pollution, though, has been listless for decades. And the farm sector categorically rejects accountability and responsibility …

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EPA Orders Minnesota to Protect Residents From Toxic Farm Nutrients

For two years I’ve investigated and reported on the biggest water pollution scandal in the United States — the mammoth unregulated discharge of phosphorus and nitrates from commercial fertilizer and manure into the nation’s surface and groundwater. Agriculture is the source of the worst water pollution in the country’s history. More than coal mining and combustion. More than chemical or steel manufacturing. More than oil refining. More than sewage treatment. More than hard rock mining. …

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“What We’re Up Against” – Pelican Township and Other North Dakota Towns Fight Farm Bureau to Keep Water Clean

DEVILS LAKE, ND – When Clark Steinhaus first heard about a plan to build a feeding operation for 2,499 hogs near the shoreline of North Dakota’s largest natural lake, he was alarmed. As chair of Pelican Township’s board of supervisors, Steinhaus worried the manure generated by so many hogs could easily contaminate area waterways, including 160,000-acre Devils Lake and its 375 miles of shoreline. His concerns were not surprising given the fact that each year, …

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Toxic Farm Nutrients and Cancer in Minnesota

BERNE, MINN. — On a hot afternoon in mid-July, Brian Bennerotte, who was raised on a farm in the hill country south of Minneapolis in the 1960s and 1970s, made a pilgrimage of sorts to County Road B in Dodge County in his home state. Running straight as a gun barrel east and west, the gravel and dirt road crosses what was once rolling prairie before being steadily converted into crop and livestock farms in …

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Offering Up Advice For Farmers, Universities Add To US Water Pollution

WINONA, MN. — Corn drapes every curve and rise here in Winona County, Minnesota – seemingly endless fields of grain that contribute to the food, fuel and finances of a robust US agricultural economy. But the bucolic landscape belies a dark and dangerous truth: Much of the groundwater in the porous limestone beneath Winona County is contaminated with some of the nation’s highest levels of nitrates — harmful pollutants released into the environment by the …

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