September 24th, 2020
The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), working alongside AG Dana Nessel, filed a lawsuit against a large CAFO operation that continues to violate existing permit rules designed to keep runoff pollution at a minimum. The polluter in question, Slater Farms, has grossly mismanaged its waste leading to nitrogen, E. Coli, and phosphorus runoff into adjacent waterways, including the White River watershed, which could negatively impact the Great Lakes. This is not the first time this polluter has violated laws designed to protect our water. In 2012, it was determined that they were operating a CAFO without a permit, and since that time have not fully complied with terms of their settlement with the state.
It is refreshing to see a strong enforcement action by EGLE re: nutrient pollution and we look forward to more of the same. This action comes on the heels of the Whitmer Administration directing EGLE to conduct a formal review of its pollution inspection procedures to strengthen enforcement and accountability following the discovery of toxic ooze on a freeway near Madison Heights in late 2019.
There was a lack of aggressive enforcement by EGLE’s predecessor DEQ; laws and rules are only meaningful if government uses both carrots and sticks to support them. It’s time to send a message to both small and large polluters that Michigan’s environmental regulations are to be taken seriously. Well-designed rules and the best policies are important, but without proper enforcement, staff capacity, and rigorous ‘on-the-ground’ inspection procedures, they will not prevent bad actors from polluting. We look forward to a continued commitment to enforcement that adequately deters potential polluters from jeopardizing public health and the environment.