News / USA

    Self-Described 'Farm Wife' Becomes Pollution Watchdog

    Lynn Henning fights contamination from factory farms

    Lynn Henning samples water for pollution from the large livestock farms near her home in rural Michigan.
    Lynn Henning samples water for pollution from the large livestock farms near her home in rural Michigan.

    Multimedia

    Lynn Henning samples the waters for pollution from the large livestock farms near her home in rural Michigan. But it's not her job.

    "I have no chemistry background. I'm a farm wife," she says.

    Henning and her husband grow maize and soybeans on their 120 hectare farm.

    Factory farm pollution

    But within 16 kilometers of her home live tens of thousands of cows and hogs in what are called concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

    Most of the milk, pork, chicken, and beef in the United States comes from the large factory farms that raise thousands of animals in enclosed barns. But that efficiency is coming at a cost to the environment.

    The several hundred animals housed in each medium-sized CAFO produce as much waste as a small city of tens of thousands of people.

    But, unlike city sewage, this waste sits in lagoons and is spread untreated on farm fields as fertilizer. Henning says the smell can be overpowering.

    The several hundred animals housed in each medium-sized factory farm produce as much waste as a small city of tens of thousands of people.
    The several hundred animals housed in each medium-sized factory farm produce as much waste as a small city of tens of thousands of people.

    "It's putrid," she says. "You can't hang laundry. You have fly infestations. You have rat infestations. You can't go outside. And you can't open your windows."

    The waste can also pollute the water when it runs off into streams or overflows the lagoons.

    That's what happened in 2000. Someone reported pollution from one of the CAFOs to state authorities and the CAFO operator blamed Henning.

    Ironically, she had not gone to the authorities that time. But the incident got her interested. So she did some research.

    Taking matters into her own hands

    "We started investigating and doing water samples and found that we had a horrendous problem."

    Lynn Henning won the Goldman Prize, the world's largest award for grassroots environmental work.
    Lynn Henning won the Goldman Prize, the world's largest award for grassroots environmental work.

    Henning says state and federal agencies don't have the funds to monitor CAFOs, so she taught herself how to do it. Working with the Michigan chapter of the environmental group the Sierra Club, she now presents state authorities with data several times a week along a 200-kilometer circuit.

    "So we are the eyes and ears of the community," she says. "And with our help, by documenting and having credible information and scientific data, we can help them do their job better."

    High personal cost

    As a result of Henning's work, the state has cited CAFOs for violations hundreds of times. That has made her the target of harassment.

    Henning's work has made her the target of harassment. Someone shot through her toddler granddaughter's bedroom window.
    Henning's work has made her the target of harassment. Someone shot through her toddler granddaughter's bedroom window.

    "We got chased down back roads. We've been chased to the sheriff's department. I've been trapped by manure semis on back road[s]," she says. "I've had dead animals on my mailbox, on my car, on my porch. We've had our mailbox blown up. And recently, my two-year-old granddaughter's bedroom window was shot out."

    But her efforts have been rewarded. Henning recently won the Goldman Prize, the world's largest award for grassroots environmental work. She has donated the $150,000 prize to nonprofit organizations so others can keep a close eye on pollution from livestock waste in their communities.  


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora