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PRESS RELEASE November 11, 2003

Sierra Club Texas Water Sentinels Director to Address Waco League of Women Voters on "Water Challenges in Central Texas"

Focus on Water Pollution from Dairy Operations and the Failure of State Officials to Regulate These Operations Effectively

(Austin)-As state agency officials consider new rules to govern dairy operations associated with water quality problems in Central Texas, Justin Taylor of the Sierra Club's Texas Water Sentinels Project will give a timely presentation to the Waco League of Women Voters on Wednesday, November 12th at noon. The meeting will be at the First Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Hall, 1100 Austin Avenue. Taylor will speak on "Water Challenges in Central Texas."

The Texas Water Sentinels Project is an activity of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Club's national Water Sentinels Campaign. The purpose of the Campaign is to educate and enlist the public in protecting and restoring our nation's water quality.

The Texas Water Sentinels Project has been studying and documenting water quality pollution from dairy confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Bosque and Leon River watersheds since September 2001. The project has worked closely with adjacent landowners and downstream interests to protect water quality from the hundreds of industrial dairy CAFOs in these watersheds. These dairy CAFOs produce an estimated 1.8 million tons of manure annually. The subsequent polluted runoff from these facilities has impacted water quality in the Bosque and Leon Rivers and Lake Waco. Many of the streams and tributaries are impaired due to elevated bacteria levels, excess nutrients, algae blooms, and low dissolved oxygen levels which no longer support aquatic life.

The state agency with regulatory authority over these dairy CAFOs is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This past summer the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club released a report, authored by Taylor as part of the Texas Water Sentinels Project, documenting the failure of TCEQ to regulate these dairy CAFOs effectively and to protect water quality in the Bosque and Leon River watersheds. Copies of the report, entitled Murky Waters: Industrial Dairies & the Failure to Regulate, will be available at the League of Women Voters meeting.

TCEQ is currently revising the rules regulating CAFOs in Texas and has proposed a set of draft rules that once again fail to adequately protect water quality by allowing discharges of highly concentrated CAFO wastewater to the Bosque and Leon Rivers. After years of increasing water quality problems in the Bosque River and Lake Waco, the City of Waco has been actively challenging new and expanded CAFO permits in the Bosque River watershed, and has worked vigorously to have TCEQ regulations enforced and enhanced in order to protect the sole source drinking water supply for 250,000 McLennan County residents. At a press conference on Monday of this week, U. S. Congressman Chet Edwards and State Reps. Jim Dunham and John Mabry have called on the TCEQ to draft stricter regulations governing these facilities to prevent further degradation and restore water quality in the Bosque River and Lake Waco.

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club supports the call for stricter regulation of the dairy CAFOs, especially in light of the findings by Taylor in his research on TCEQ's oversight of these operations. At the League meeting Taylor will discuss ways in which the public may provide input to TCEQ to demonstrate strong support for more effective regulation of these water pollution sources.