Michigan farm accused of contaminating water sources with animal waste

MARSHALL, Mich. – AT Michigan farm’s animal waste practices are threatening to overload nearby bodies of water with harmful bacteria and pathogens, according to the attorney general.

Holloo Farms, a large concentrated animal feeding operation in Calhoun County, is the target of a civil action filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

She said the company has a history of noncompliance with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, as well as with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Holloo Farms’ previous violations

Nessel said the Calhoun County Drain Commissioner first contacted EGLE about Holloo Farms in 2004. It was suspected that the farm was discharging manure into the Budlong Drain, which is connected to the Huckleberry Drain through a tile and an open ditch, officials said.

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The Huckleberry Drain discharges into Wilder Creek, the Kalamazoo River and, ultimately, Lake Michigan.

Since then, the company has been accused of discharging manure repeatedly in the same area. The most recent incident happened in 2019, when Holloo Farms’ allowed about 72,000 gallons of runoff contaminated with the farm’s waste to flow into the Huckleberry Drain, Nessel said.

In January, EGLE issued a violation notice linked to ongoing permit violations that included improper land application of manure and groundwater contamination.

EGLE officials asked for compliance by the end of January, but Holloo Farms failed to meet that deadline, officials said.

Civil action against farm

Nessel’s new complaint, which was filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, says Holloo Farms’ actions threaten to “impair the natural resources of Calhoun County by overloading the Kalamazoo River, Lake Allegan, and related water with nutrients and introducing bacteria and other pathogens from bodies animal waste into the waters of the state.”

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It alleges that the company’s “longstanding, ongoing refusal” to comply with permit requirements threatens the integrity of the EGLE permitting program. Holloo Farms has an unfair financial advantage over other companies that follow the rules, Nessel said.

By failing to manage waste properly at its headquarters and a satellite site, the farm could cause serious environmental and public health dangers linked to drinking water and recreational surface water, according to authorities.

Excess nutrients could harm aquatic life and contribute to algae blooms that render surface water unsafe for drinking or recreation, Nessel said.

“Water is one of our most precious resources, whether it is in the lakes and rivers we swim and fish in, the aquifers we drink from, or the groundwater flowing beneath us all,” Nessel said. “Any company that chooses to pollute these shared resources instead of responsibly following environmental laws will pay a price for selfishly putting their own bottom line above public health and safety.”

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“Responsible management of waste generated by large livestock operations is critical to protecting our state’s freshwater resources and the health of those who enjoy them,” EGLE Director Liesl Clark said. “Flagrant and repeated violations of those responsibilities in this case are disappointing and left us with no alternative to today’s action.”

CAFO waste contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus and pathogens like E. coli, according to officials. When the waste is improperly managed, the nitrogen and phosphorous can harm soil quality and plants on land, while the pollution can kill fish and other aquatic life, they said.

Humans can also become sick from being in water contaminated with E. coli or eating fish or shellfish from that water.

Nessel’s is seeking an order for civil fines and to enjoin Holloo Farms from unlawfully discharging waste into waterways and groundwater.

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