Ending last year's pitched battle between industrial dairy's desire to avoid regulation and the public's right to clean, safe drinking water, New Mexico's new Republican governor, Susana Martinez threw out regulations intended to control the continuing discharge of poisonous dairy waste into the state's water supplies. According to the state environment department, at least two-thirds of the groundwater underneath or adjacent to New Mexico's dairy CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) has been poisoned by nitrates. When other pollutants are included, estimates of water contamination by these factory farms can rise as high as 90 percent. No wonder New Mexico's legislature voted to have regulations drawn up to prevent this ongoing groundwater pollution.
The regulations Martinez quashed, which were written last year after extensive review that included hearing from industry lobbyists, environmental advocates and citizens groups, would have, for the first time, required dairy CAFOs to apply for waste discharge permits. Permit applications would have had to include information on the depth and flow of groundwater under the CAFO, the amount of waste that would be disposed, and how water quality would be monitored to guard against contamination. Naturally, state and national dairy lobbying groups were up in arms, screaming that the regulations had no basis in sound science. That is perhaps not surprising, given the industry's claim that milk comes, not from filthy, crowded torture chambers, but from the magical land of Mootopia.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, where in 2009 animal waste contaminated more than 100 wells in a single town, the legislature had been considering a bill that would allow the state's Department of Natural Resources to set limits for how much animal manure can be spread on fields in areas with porous limestone karst that makes it easy for the waste to seep down and spoil the groundwater. Those areas would include Brown County, which has 15 dairy CAFOs with more than 1,000 cows each, and where many residents drink bottled water to avoid well water contaminated by manure. However, newly elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has called the Department of Natural Resources "out of control," is unlikely to let these groundwater protections become law.