Michigan Chapter

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Facing Problems With An Existing CAFO?

How To...

Report Illegal Activity by a CAFO


If a CAFO receives its NPDES water discharge permit, you should still continue working to prevent or stop its pollution by conducting water testing, or by submitting followup FOIA requests to the MDEQ. An example of why you shouldn't give up: in Michigan, when the Hartford Dairy in Van Buren County applied for their water discharge permit, the Sierra Club submitted comments describing concerns about nutrient and manure sources that were not accounted for in the CNMP nor adequately spelled out in the permit application. 

The MDEQ awarded the Harford Dairy an Individual NPDES water discharge permit, the CAFO was built, and within four months, the MDEQ had found so much E. coli in two nearby streams that both streams were added to Michigan's Impaired Waters List (303(d) list.  If the water testing had not been done, no one would have been the wiser about the pollution.  If we had not read about the water testing in the MDEQ's files, the public would not have been the wiser, either.  



Who do you call to report illegal activity?

The circumstances determine whom you should call. You may want to look up the phone numbers for the following situations and write them down or load them into your speed-dial, so you will have them when needed. 

  • Unfortunately there isn't one phone number for all problems stemming from CAFOs. There is, however, a Memorandum of Understanding in Michigan between the Michigan DEQ and the Michigan Department of Agriculture about who is going to respond to what problem, but there are still many gray areas within this memorandum. And, bear in mind that neither department handles health issues: it may be the state department of community health or it may be your local health department who deals with health issues due to CAFO pollution.
  • If waste is spilled on the road, you may have to call your local sheriff, the state police, or the road commission to see who will respond.
  • The most effective department for dealing with CAFOs in Michigan is the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. They handle discharges to waters of the state, and they also take air quality complaints. The MDEQ emergency number at their Pollution Emergency Answering System (PEAS) is 800-292-4706.

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When you call in a complaint

Use a complaint form so you don't forget important details. A simple complaint form will help you to assist the agency to respond to your complaint more accurately and efficiently. The more accurate you are, the more credibility you gain. Give complete details when you call or when you notify any agency, even if you don't use a form.

You may also submit an e-mail complaint to your MDEQ District staff.  

An e-mail complaint can be productive if you have digital timestamped pictures, water sample results, and so on. Through email, you can easily send attachments to all agencies at once, including the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Michigan Department of Community Health, the County Health Department, the Drain Commissioner, the County Commissioners, and the legislators for your area.

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Filing a Complaint in Michigan
Call the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Pollution Emergency Answering System (PEAS) Hotline at 800-292-4706  and tell the PEAS operator that you have observed a manure discharge to waters of the state or that you are experiencing an air quality problem. This phone number covers water discharges and air quality violations.

The PEAS operator will need to know:
  • Your name, address, phone number, and what company or organization you are with;
  • The name, address, and phone number of the facility that is discharging;
  • The exact location of discharge (township, county, section number)

You should also know which drain or surface water is being discharged to, if possible (for example: roadside ditch south of Donnelly Road on the west side of US 127 south to Fisher Lake)

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Do Not Call in False Alarms

You'll lose credibility if you call in a false alarm. However, if you have a genuine concern, call and at least talk to the agency about what you see. Don't be afraid to ask questions. 


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