MUNCIE — Citizen-scientist Martin Risch was one of the supporters of Rep. Sue Errington's (D-Muncie) bill to give the Indiana Department of Environmental Management more regulatory authority over concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

During a recent House Environmental Affairs Committee hearing on the bill, House Bill 1378, Risch — a retired U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist and chief of ecosystems investigations at the USGS Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky Water Science Center — told lawmakers:

    • Rural Hoosiers "need your help" to protect their water wells from nitrates and other contamination from CAFOs, aka industrial livestock farms or factory farms.
    • Indiana swimmers, boaters and fishermen "need your help" to protect recreational waters from E. Coli contamination from CAFOs.
    • The state's birds, fish and animals "need your help" to protect their wetlands, lakes and streams from algal blooms and oxygen depletion caused by nutrient pollution from CAFOs.
    • And IDEM "needs your help" in stopping CAFOs from locating practically anywhere, such as a recently approved 4,350-head organic dairy CAFO surrounded by Kankakee Sands, Beaver Lake Nature Preserve, Conrad Station Savanna, and Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area in Newton County.

The proposed CAFO — Natural Prairie Dairy — is being inserted entirely in the former floor of Beaver Lake, the largest natural lake in Indiana until it was drained in the 1870s, according to Risch, who says a CAFO in that area will hinder joint efforts to restore the area to its natural condition.

"The Nature Conservancy owns most of the property around this proposed CAFO and is trying to restore remnants of that great marsh," Martin told The Star Press.

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