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For Immediate Release: Apr 13, 2005
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337


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 polluted.

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 river.


Read American River's report