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.  

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid