News & Views » Columns

Deep dung


News Hits has to hand it to the Sierra Club, which has been on the state of Michigan’s rump for refusing to do much about large livestock farms — and the mega amounts of doo-doo and other farm waste they can discharge into public waters (see “The Big Stink,” MT July 4-10). This week the environmental group turned up the pressure even higher.

Earlier this year the Sierra Club sued the owners of Ottawa County’s River Ridge Farms in U.S. District Court for allegedly discharging farm waste — from their beef and diary operations, which together have more than 1,700 animals — into Michigan waterways since 1985, according to court records. This week the eco-friendly crew included the state in the lawsuit. Anne Woiwode, director of the Sierra Club’s Mackinac Chapter, says her group sued the Engler administration because it refuses to process permits that would help prevent farms from discharging waste into public waters.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act permit program is supposed to be carried out by every state in the country. But Michigan refuses to issue such permits. The Sierra Club hopes its suit will result in a court order forcing the state to issue permits as a way to keep polluters in check, Woiwode told News Hits.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality did not get back to us for comment by press time. But, in a bit of circular logic we’re still trying to comprehend, the department did tell the Metro Times in past interviews that zero discharge is state law and issuing permits would only allow farms to release waste.

Talk about deep doo-doo.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.