(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Park City, Utah — “If a foreign government contaminated our country like the Department of Defense has, it would be considered an act of war.” Those were the words from distinguished environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in an interview with EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry in an exclusive on-camera interview in Park City, Utah on June 8, 2017.
Kennedy, President of Waterkeeper Alliance, was referring to data that shows the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), is a leading federal department regarding the quantities of toxic chemicals released to either waste management facilities or the environment.
An EnviroNews World News report published February 10, 2016, revealed that DOD ranked number three, behind AK Steel Holding Corp. and Tyson Foods Inc. in total chemicals released to water from 2010-2014. The data was compiled and analyzed by Environment America using numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program.
Figures from the latest 2016 TRI report put DOD at number two in waste management by all federal facilities, having discharged 38 percent of the government’s 181.2 million pounds of toxic waste in 2015. The number one spot is held by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federally-owned electric power utility that serves nine million people in seven states. The TVA, which operates eight coal-fired power plants, released 92.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals, or 51 percent of the federal total, in 2015.
It is important to note that these figures include waste sent to treatment facilities, recycled or otherwise disposed of, as well as chemicals released into the air, waterways or the land. The TRI report does not break out disposal methods.
Kennedy acknowledged that “the budgets are limited for the environment” in DOD, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking on the U.S. military. He spoke of an action in 2001 that landed him in a federal penitentiary. Kennedy was among 180 protestors arrested while seeking to halt Navy bombing exercises on Vieques, an island within the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. “I did a civil disobedience and I was in jail for 30 days,” he told Urry. The bombings had killed a civilian in 1999 and were causing extensive environmental damage to the island. Under the direction of President George W. Bush, the Navy halted its operations in 2003 and today much of the island is protected as a National Wildlife Refuge.
But outstripping even the massive federal government’s toxic waste disposals are those of the nation’s factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs. “They are barbaric in their cruelty to the animals, they are corrupt, they have to corrupt public officials in order to get away with dumping their waste into our waterways, they destroy family farms, they destroy farm communities, they poison people, they’re emptying our landscape, and they’re destroying democracy,” Kennedy said.
EnviroNews World News reported that Tyson Foods alone released 104 million pounds of toxic waste into waterways from 2010 to 2014. The February 9, 2016 article also listed chicken producers Perdue Farms and Pilgrim Pride among the top 15 polluters.
“We’re the lead group suing CAFOs across the country,” said Kennedy about Waterkeeper Alliance. The group’s “Pure Farms, Pure Waters” campaign targets pollution from factory swine, poultry and dairy farms. According to Waterkeeper Alliance, a large CAFO could hold more than 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 125,000 chickens.
An April 11, 2017 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. ordered the EPA to close a loophole that allowed dangerous levels of air pollution emitted by these operations to go unreported. The ruling came from a lawsuit brought by Waterkeeper Alliance, the Humane Society of the United States, the Sierra Club and the Center for Food Safety and Environmental Integrity Project.
“We are taking action against the most egregious violations, demanding state and federal authorities strengthen and enforce existing prohibitions on the discharge of animal waste into our waterways,” states Waterkeeper Alliance on its website.
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