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Oct. 21, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt

New Report Finds Dangerous Nitrate Pollution in Maryland Drinking Water

Dangerous nitrate pollution has contaminated the groundwater that supplies private drinking water wells and public water utilities in several agricultural regions across the United States, posing a significant threat to people's health. A new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) indicates that this problem has reached Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, an area that's home to hundreds of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and millions of chickens.

Nitrates are a compound formed when nitrogen, largely from manure and fertilizer, breaks down. When manure is overapplied or mismanaged, rainfall or irrigation can cause nitrates to trickle down through soil into groundwater resources. Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond notes that a single poultry CAFO raising 82,000 laying hens can produce 2,800 tons of manure a year, more than three times the amount produced by the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore each year.

Though private well testing data is limited, our investigation found indicators that pollution associated with CAFOs is contaminating the groundwater that residents rely on for their drinking water. Since nitrates are colorless, tasteless, and odorless, most families don't even know that it's in their water. We examined currently available data …

Sept. 3, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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In the absence of meaningful action by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than a dozen states, including Virginia, have issued emergency safety measures to protect essential workers from the risks of COVID-19. But Maryland – home to one of the largest poultry industries in the nation – is glaringly absent from that list.

We’ve seen dramatic changes in response to the coronavirus in the transportation, retail, and restaurant industries, but behind the closed doors at poultry plants, workers face dire health risks while continuing to labor in fear of contracting COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, workers in the poultry industry faced some fairly egregious working conditions. Inside plants, workers labor side-by-side while as many as 175 birds whizz by every minute for "processing." Painful repetitive stress injuries and cuts due to increased line speeds are all too common at these processing facilities. Reports …

Aug. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt
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In July, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) released the findings of a new ambient air quality monitoring project focused on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. This effort was announced more than a year ago as a partnership between the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI), a trade group for just what it sounds like, and MDE to monitor ammonia and particulate matter emissions from industrial poultry operations.

The number of registered poultry CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, in Maryland has increased from seven in 2009 to 544 today, and the vast majority are located on the state’s Lower Eastern Shore. For years, residents have complained of foul odors emanating from nearby CAFOs, in addition to nausea, eye and throat irritation, and respiratory ailments. These symptoms are consistent with exposure to high levels of ammonia — a compound emitted when chicken litter breaks down, making it a …

Aug. 3, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, Brian Gumm
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Based on its current projected path, Tropical Storm Isaias could bring heavy rains up and down the East Coast, from the Carolinas and Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Along the way, the storm could swamp industrial facilities, coal ash ponds, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and more.

From Hurricane Florence to Hurricane Harvey and beyond, in the past 15 years, we've seen numerous tropical storms flood unprepared facilities. This has caused significant infrastructure damage and unleashed toxic floodwaters into nearby communities and waterways, threatening public health and making residents sick.

While no one can predict the exact path of any given storm, we do know the importance of preparing for extreme weather and adapting to the climate crisis. For resources on this issue, you can review CPR's report on toxic floodwaters in Virginia, our paper on toxic floodwaters and public health, and our …

June 18, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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A blog post published last month by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a collaborative partnership focused on Bay restoration, addressed the many ways that the climate crisis will affect farms in the region. Data from the program shows temperatures on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore, home to a high concentration of industrial poultry farms, increased between 2 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, on average, between 1901 and 2017. By 2080, temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are projected to increase by 4.5 to 10 degrees, posing a serious risk of heat stress to farmworkers and livestock.

As the post discusses, rising temperatures can hurt farms in several ways. Warmer temperatures make for a longer growing season, which may temporarily promote higher crop yields but can also stress water resources and result in additional fertilizer application, which is not what the doctor ordered for the Bay’s nutrient …

March 12, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On March 4, I joined community members and advocates from Assateague Coastal Trust, Center for a Livable Future, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, and NAACP to testify in favor of Maryland's House Bill 1312. The bill, introduced by Delegate Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), would place a moratorium on permits for new or expanding concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) in the state. The legislation would apply to "industrial poultry operations," defined as operations that produce 300,000 or more broiler chickens per year. It was introduced with strong support from community members and environmental and public health advocates hoping to pump the brakes on the seemingly unmitigated growth of poultry CAFOs, especially on the Eastern Shore.

The environmental and public health harms from CAFOs are nothing new to Eastern Shore residents. As stated in CPR's testimony, the expansion of CAFOs on the Delmarva Peninsula is …

Nov. 15, 2019 by David Flores
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David Flores co-authored this post with Kathy Phillips, the Assateague Coastkeeper, an on-the-water advocate who patrols and protects the Maryland and northern Virginia Eastern Shore coastal bays and stands up to polluters.

Last month, former CPR policy analyst Evan Isaacson wrote in this space about Maryland's proposal to revise and reissue its Clean Water Act pollution permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). He made a convincing case that those who love the Bay need to advocate for effective and enforceable CAFO regulations.

Traditionally, air pollution permits have been and will continue to be a critical component of climate policy in the United States, controlling emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants. But strong water pollution standards, including permits, are also a vital tool in addressing climate change because they are so important to state efforts to adapt.

Maryland's CAFO permit is what's described as a "general permit" because …

Oct. 17, 2019 by Evan Isaacson
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The many thousands of people in the Mid-Atlantic region who care deeply about restoring the Chesapeake Bay tend to be pretty knowledgeable about the causes of the Bay's woes and even some of the key policy solutions for restoring it to health. These concerned citizens may even be familiar with the term "TMDL," a legal concept within the Clean Water Act that is probably completely foreign to most of the rest of the country. But what even the most committed Bay advocates may not be aware of is that a TMDL (short for "Total Maximum Daily Load") is merely a plan, not an enforceable document, and certainly not a self-activating solution to the Bay's problems.

The key to giving effect to the Bay TMDL and the entire Chesapeake restoration framework lies in the mechanics of the Clean Water Act. Quite simply, the TMDL sets an overall …

May 16, 2019 by Brian Gumm
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In April, states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed published drafts of the latest iteration of plans to reduce pollution and protect their rivers and streams. New analyses from the Center for Progressive Reform show that the plans fall far short of what is needed to restore the health and ecological integrity of the Chesapeake Bay.

The draft plans, known as Phase III watershed implementation plans (WIPs), were developed as part of the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) framework that includes all the states in the Chesapeake watershed. CPR Policy Analysts David Flores and Evan Isaacson focused on three states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – that are responsible for nearly 90 percent of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake and represent more than 90 percent of the remaining pollution reductions needed to reach the final 2025 pollution reduction target.

Isaacson examined and evaluated the draft WIPs with several criteria …

Nov. 1, 2018 by David Flores
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This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission.

Recent extreme weather — Hurricanes Harvey and Florence — caused widespread toxic contamination of floodwaters after low-lying chemical plants, coal ash storage facilities and hog waste lagoons were inundated.

Such storm-driven chemical disasters demonstrate that state water pollution permitting programs are overdue for reforms that account for stronger and more intense hurricanes and heavy rainfall events, sea level rise and extreme heat.

As the District of Columbia and the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed prepare their final watershed implementation plans for cleaning up the Bay, two important lessons should be clear from the recent disasters: First, climate change will greatly complicate Bay cleanup efforts and must therefore be factored into planning. Second, the state regulation of pollution sources can and should be a critical component of the plan.

The potential pollution implications of climate change are many …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 21, 2020

New Report Finds Dangerous Nitrate Pollution in Maryland Drinking Water

Sept. 3, 2020

It's Time for Maryland to Protect Its Poultry Workers

Aug. 5, 2020

Industry-Sponsored Air Monitoring 'Study' Provides No Assurances for Marylanders Living Near CAFOs

Aug. 3, 2020

Will Isaias Unleash Toxic Floodwaters along the East Coast?

June 18, 2020

The Climate Crisis and Heat Stress: Maryland Farms Must Adapt to Rising Temperatures

March 12, 2020

Advocating for Sustainable Agriculture on Maryland's Eastern Shore

Nov. 15, 2019

If You Care about the Climate Crisis, Here's What You Need to Know about Maryland's Clean Water Act Permit for Agricultural Pollution