Groundwater tainted by U.S. agribusiness

By Erica Gies

I recently traveled to California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions the world has ever seen, and the source of much of the food that you and I eat.

Unfortunately this bounty comes at a high cost to the people who grow and harvest our food — a cost that may impact many more of us soon. The problem is groundwater pollution. Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from irrigated fields, animal waste from dairy farms and concentrated animal-feeding operations can poison drinking water.

I visited the town of Seville, which farm workers have called home for four generations. About 500 people live there now, and most adults still work in the fields. In 2008 the town’s only drinking water source tested positive for nitrates.

Nitrates are a byproduct of the nitrogen fertilizers that help American farmers bring in bumper crops. But when those crops can’t absorb all the fertilizer applied, the excess flows into groundwater via irrigation runoff. Nitrate-contaminated drinking water can poison pregnant women and babies. It inhibits a baby’s ability to absorb oxygen into its blood, which can cause it to suffocate and die. This condition is known as blue baby syndrome. Nitrate pollution has also been linked to cancer and to spleen and kidney disease...

The Philadelphia Tribune

Also read:
The Possibility for Reducing Water Pollution Resulting from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and the Impact of Phytase

CAFOs and Public Health: Pathogens and Manure

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