Roan #5 on annual list released

(Washington, D.C.) American Rivers and its partners today named Tennessee’s
Roan Creek as one of the nation’s Most Endangered Rivers for 2005, citing
the threat that construction of a factory farm would have on the health of the
stream, residents, and regional economy. The annual America’s Most Endangered
Rivers report, now in its twentieth year, highlights rivers with the most uncertain
futures rather than the worst chronic problems. The groups called on state officials
to establish and enforce stricter rules on factory farm operations.

“Mountain streams like Roan Creek should be about clear, cool waters,
fishing holes and rope swings, not tons of cow manure and deadly germs,”
said Rebecca R. Wodder, president of American Rivers. “It’s not
too late for state officials to put a stop to this.”

Maymead, Inc. and its subsidiary High Mountain Holsteins propose to confine
almost 700 dairy cows in a large barn in a residential community outside of
Mountain City, in Johnson County. Each year, the cows would produce more than
12 million gallons of animal wastes-more than the amount of sewage produced
by the 18,000 people living in Johnson County.

The liquid animal waste would be stored in huge lagoons along a Roan Creek
tributary, and could taint Roan in several ways. Liquid manure could seep into
the groundwater below the holding lagoons contaminating nearby wells, springs,
and Roan Creek. Once the lagoons fill up, workers must spread manure onto farm
fields, which could later wash into Roan Creek. During a storm, the holding
lagoons could spill, sending waves of liquid manure down the valley and ultimately
into Roan Creek.

“Maymead’s factory farm would harm the area’s reputation,”
said Steve Ferguson of the Johnson County Citizens’ Committee for Clean
Air and Water. “A reputation that relies heavily on the promise of fresh
air, clean and clear water, and clean country living to attract new residents.”

Many factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are notorious
water polluters. The farms produce and store massive amounts of animal wastes.
Disease-causing germs, heavy metals, hormones, noxious gases, and other toxins
escape the storage lagoons into the surrounding water and air, threatening the
health of workers and nearby residents. In 2003, the American Public Health
Association called for a national moratorium on factory farm construction because
these farms cause so many waterborne and respiratory illnesses.

“The citizens of Johnson County have, and will continue to, challenge
the construction of the factory farm near Roan Creek citing national studies
and other strong evidence that these farms are detrimental to communities, local
economies, and water quality,” said Barry Sulkin with Tennessee Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

American Rivers and its partners called on Tennessee state officials to step
up to the plate. The groups urged the Tennessee Department of Environment and
Conservation (DEC) to act responsibly and withdraw the original permit to build,
as the permit violates the DEC’s own rules prohibiting authorizations
of additional loadings of the same pollutants into streams that are already

The conservation groups also urged the Tennessee Legislature to revisit state
laws that govern factory farming and citizens’ rights regarding current
DEC practices. The legislature should provide Tennesseans with stronger recourse
when factory farms contaminate wells, pollute water or air, or depress property
values. These changes would encourage factory farms across the state to be better
corporate citizens.

Roan Creek not alone
Mountain City and small towns throughout Appalachia need federal and state assistance
to acquire the state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants that will protect the
rivers that are the heart of their communities. Unfortunately, President Bush
asked Congress to cut clean water aid to the state of Tennessee by almost $5.35
million in 2006. Congress should reject those proposed cuts and increase funding
for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund to $3.2 billion in 2006, of which
$46.4 million would go to Tennessee.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups,
environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer
watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report. The report
highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering
form the worst chronic problems. The report presents alternatives to proposals
that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and
points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed


American River’s report

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