TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Elected officials along with some concerned neighbors visited a concentrated animal farming operation (CAFO) Monday to see how manure is getting into the waterways.
A CAFO is categorized as a feeding operation with more than 1000 live animal units.This is equivalent to 125,000 broiler chickens or 700 dairy cows.
"We're getting pretty far removed from the notion of a mom and pop family farm," said Lucas County treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz. "These are enormous conglomerates, corporate excess."
Neighbor Pam Taylor agrees with Kapszukiewicz's concerns.
"These factory farms are basically little cities. A 3500 cow factory farm puts out the equivalent in waste if it's a dairy of 70,000 people every day," Taylor said.
Taylor volunteers with the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan. She says when the CAFO farmers are reusing the manure from these animals to fertilize fields, it is not going where it's supposed to go.
"When you put that liquid manure over those tiled fields, it flows underneath down to the tiles and it'll flow out," Taylor said.
The discharged travels down streams and creeks until it makes it to Lake Erie. Activists say it is polluting the water.
"This is an emergency. Right now, we don't have time to throw endless money at the problem and to study it for years and years and years. We have to take action now," Taylor said.
Scientists say the phosphorus from the waste is a reason for the toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie.
"Right now, there is still so much phosphorous that it's going to take years and years and years of growing crops like grasses to remove the excess phosphorous on the soil," Taylor said.
Kapszukiewicz says the benefits of Lake Erie's health extends beyond the vital fresh water it provides.
"We benefit from an environmental stand point, we benefit from an economic standpoint," Kapszukiewicz said. "We have a lot of jobs tied to the Great Lakes."
Taylor encourages anyone to who wants to support the cause to contact advocates for a clean Lake Erie.