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

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    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.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora