How Factory Farming is Contaminating U.S. Soil and Water

Factory farming is not only killing us by producing meat products contaminated with
antibiotics and chemicals, but also through its extensive pollution of our soil and
The National Water Quality Inventory reported agricultural water run-off, which included untreated animal waste, chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, as the number one contaminant of rivers and streams, and the second cause of disease in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. [1] Most large factory farms have no provisions for the millions of tons of manure passed by the animals being prepared for slaughter in cramped, inhumane facilities. Many of these facilities dump untreated manure into football-field sized earth cesspits called “lagoons.” When these pits overflow or rupture, the land is contaminated with harmful bacteria that seep into our groundwater, contaminating miles of land with bacteria filled feces.
Violent storms, like Hurricane Floyd in 1999, can subsequently induce extensive flooding and widespread contamination. A study by North Carolina State University reported as many as 55% of these highly toxic lagoons leak. [2] On the rare occasion that these pits are not overflowing, farmers will often use lagoon contents as a “fertilizer” when spraying fields that grow feed for the animals. In reality, this is nothing more than bacteria-filled waste. Spread through the air, the feces contaminates everything, and sickens the inhabitants of nearby lower-income rural residential areas. Currently, over 40% of American water is not fit for drinking, fishing or bathing due to water and chemical runoff from these farms. In the Southern U.S., nearly 1/3 of wells are contaminated with nitrates, a by-product of chicken manure known to cause cancer in adults and fatalities among children.  [3]
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, as of 2007, animal excrement from factory farms had contaminated groundwater in 17 states and polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states. [4]  Both California and North Carolina have had serious water contamination issues resulting in killing millions of fish and leaving contaminated water that would affect us for decades to come, even if all factory farming were to end today. As a result of the failure of the EPA to pass more restrictive laws, factory farming is continuing to grow, with some projections anticpating that it may double by the year 2050. The increased demand is largely due to the expected growth in population, and the increased worldwide popularity of the westernized diet. Some biologists predict that we may even run out of edible fish by 2048 unless drastic measures are taken. The time to take action to protect our soil and water is now, otherwise we risk becoming a civilization starved by our own indifference and greed. [5]