CAFOs

sewage

Coal Ash

impaired waterways

Dams

Sediment

Livestock has been raised in the Coosa Valley for centuries. But more recently, a new type of “farm” where massive numbers of animals are concentrated in a small space has taken over the industry. These types of farms, where thousands of hogs or tens of thousands of chickens are raised, are called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (or CAFOs for short) and they are every bit as industrial as the name sounds. The water quality issue that arises from CAFOs is that where you have a lot of animals in one place, you have a lot of animal poop in one place. If that poop is not well controlled, it runs off into our creeks and lakes bringing with it bacteria and nutrients.

There are regulations in place to make it easier for farmers to take actions to reduce the impact of CAFOs on our waterways. Coosa Riverkeeper monitors implementation of those regulations to ensure they are sufficient and being complied with on a site by site basis. There are around 75 CAFOs, largely poultry, in the Coosa Valley. Most of them are located in Big Wills Valley, with some in Big Canoe Creek and Choccolocco Creek watersheds, and a few elsewhere. The Tennessee, Black Warrior, and Choctawhatchee basins have significantly larger numbers of CAFOs, and others basins like the Cahaba and Tallapoosa have relatively few.

The impact to water quality from industrial scale livestock operations doesn’t end at the CAFO. Massive slaughterhouses discharge enormous quantities of nutrients. There are two such facilities in the Coosa Valley; one is located on Neely Henry Lake in Southside and the other is located on Big Wills Creek, which drains to Neely Henry. Collectively they discharge over one million pounds annually of nutrients that are considered toxic because in such large volumes they have an impact on aquatic life. They also contribute towards the general nutrient problem we have on the Coosa which spurs excessive growth of algae.

While we work to ensure CAFO regulations are sufficient to protect the Coosa River and to enforce those regulations upon facilities, you can help too if this news ruins your appetite. Our diets drive the demand for this type of industrialized product. Though higher in price, there are many small scale, traditional farmers in the Coosa Valley that grow livestock with less impact on water quality. One example is Marble Creek Farmstead on Tallaseehatchee Creek in Sylacauga. You can also look for “pasture raised” poultry products in your grocery store.