Guest commentary:
As a health-care provider in Carroll County, I am concerned that many citizens are unaware of the magnitude of the decision to build multiple dairy factories in Carroll County. These dairies, commonly called “CAFOs” (concentrated animal feeding operations), have extensive health, environmental, and economic repercussions that I have not seen addressed in our community.

There is sufficient documentation to have grave reservations about the affect these dairies will have on our entire community. First of all, we have been warned by geologist/hydrogeologist, Prof. Emeritus of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Darrell Leap, Ph.D. from Purdue University, that plans to establish such operations in our county “are fraught with potential environmental problems that are serious enough to warrant denial of a permit by IDEM and cancellation of planned operations of this activity in this locality.”

Dr. Leap concludes his extensive 12-page report about a Carroll County CAFO by saying, “The Vreba-Hoff Optima Dairy planned for Liberty Township of Carroll County, Indiana, should not be permitted because potential environmental problems are too numerous, too great and too dangerous to humans and animals that will come in contact with the large amounts of manure that will be stored and spread on fields.” (A copy of this report is available to the public at the Camden Medical Office, 132 W. Main St, Camden.)

One of the reasons the danger is so great is due to manure seepage into ditches, streams and ground water. Cattle frequently carry E. Coli 0157:H7 which is shed in manure; this is the strain of E. coli that causes severe, bloody diarrhea and 8% acute kidney failure in patients requiring medical treatment of which 3-5% of these patients die from this illness. The young and the elderly are at greatest risk.

As a physician, I must inform you that medical science has no cure for this type of bacterial infection; if contracted, it must be allowed to run its course.

Even one dairy factory in the county means this bacteria could be released in a manure spill and could be contracted by playing or wading in a downstream creek, by eating or handling fish from the creek, by eating deer or any livestock drinking from the creek or groundwater.

Another health hazard is the poisonous gas emissions near confinement areas, sewage pits, or sewage disposal fields, said Bryce Oates in an article for inmotionmagazine. Oates cites that according to a 2002 Air Quality Study from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, “large manure lagoons pollute the air with many gases that can be harmful to human health, including hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause nausea, headaches, vomiting or diarrhea, and even life-threatening pulmonary edema.”

Dr. K. Kilburn of Utah is a leading authority on hydrogen sulfide. He states that “even one exposure to the toxin is enough to cause irreversible brain damage.”

He also says, “the operational size of today’s mega-farms is the reason they threaten public health.”

I think it is also in the public’s best interest to know that on Jan. 9, 2004, the American Public Health Association released the following:

The American Public Health Association has issued a resolution urging federal, state, and local government health agencies to impose a precautionary moratorium on all new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) – also known as factory farms – and to initiate and support further research on the health impacts of air and water pollution from such operations.

Negative economic effects on rural communities; health problems associated with air pollution and contaminated drinking water from manure runoff; increasing antibiotic resistance caused by routine use of antibiotics in farm animals; and serious respiratory problems found among CAFO workers and among neighboring residents are identified as the main reasons for calling for the moratorium.

Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, have been inundated with CAFOs since 1990, when Europe encouraged dairy farmers to come to the American Midwest. Large corporations like Vreba-Hoff own the dairy and hire someone else to run it for them.

“Vreba-Hoff Development Co., . . has been repeatedly cited and fined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Angency (EPA), the Ind. Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Mich. Dept. for Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and the Ohio Div. of Wildlife for manure seepage, discharge of contaminated water into local storm drains, ditches and lakes and violation of the Clean Water Act.”

Although CAFOs are touted as an economic boon, Oates writes that research proves otherwise. “An Iowa State study has found that family farms provide greater positive fiscal benefits on communities than factory farms do. Family farmers create 23% more total local revenue, produce 20% more net revenue for the state and pay 7% more property taxes than does one large unit of equal production. A University of Missouri study found that factory farms create a net loss of employment because they drive family farmers and the local merchants that depend upon them out of business.”

Research also indicates that “CAFOs are causing devastating loss of rural residential property values in Michigan. The loss of taxable value by as much as 70% has been documented due to CAFOs. In reality, many rural residents living in the vicinity of CAFOs and their disposal fields are unable to sell their land at any price.”

As a physician, I recognize the danger this kind of economic and financial stress poses to the mental and emotional well-being of my patients, as well as to their physical health. I would ask the citizens and local government of Carroll County to seriously consider the implications of allowing dairy factories to be established in this county. Other states and counties have committed to dairy factories and leave a wealth of experience for us to learn from. Unfortunately, the track record looks pretty devastating for public health and welfare.

For anyone who would like further information, Paula Foster is a local contact person @ 574-652- 4401 or

Dr. Thomas Anderson is a Rock Creek Township resident and a practicing physician with an office in Camden.