Dairy Air

Tulare County has approved a key permit for one of California’s new generation of massive dairy farms, whose storage of manure in lagoons has raised concerns about air and water pollution.
“This is sort of a test load,” county planner Marty Beatie said about the Hilardes dairy, approved in September. “The dairy industry is sitting back and watching to see if it survives a legal challenge. We have 86 [similar] applications.”
In 1976, according to state figures, the average California dairy had 135 cows. But most of the Tulare County’s current applications call for 3,000 to 5,000 cows. Hilardes plans for 14,100.
According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the average cow produces 120 pounds of manure and urine each day; the Hilardes dairy would generate as much waste as the residents of nearby Bakersfield, population 280,000.
“[But] there is no waste treatment center at the dairy,” said Brent Newell of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, which plans to sue over the approval. “The waste is stored in dirt holes in the ground.”
California’s agriculture industry has won controversial exemptions from the US Clean Air Act statewide and from state environmental review in most counties; dairies are subject only to sporadic monitoring by regional water districts.
But by 2005, according to the San Joaquin Air District, livestock waste will be the valley’s largest source of volatile organic compounds (VOC), which produce ozone, a smog precursor.
Dairy industry officials dispute the report, saying it’s impossible to adequately measure the VOCs.

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