For Immediate Release
Eve Mitchell, +44 (0)1381 610 740, emitchell(at)fweurope(dot)org or
Gabriella Zanzanaini, +32 (0)488 409 662, gzanzanaini(at)fweurope(dot)org
Proposed Linconshire Mega-Dairy Could Generate As Much Waste as London
Nocton dairy must not get planning permission, says consumer group
BRUSSELS - Food & Water Europe has formally objected to renewed plans for
the EU’s biggest dairy at Nocton, in Lincolnshire in the UK, saying that
despite hundreds of pages in dozens of supporting documents, the
application fails to adequately account for how the local aquifer can
accommodate the massive needs of the dairy, and how to deal with annual
waste levels on par with London’s.
The group questioned the economic viability of the plan for a herd of
3,700 cows (“reduced” in this second application after earlier plans
were withdrawn), and said this in effect means planning officers have a
dilemma: approve plans now that will inevitably lead to the full
stocking level of 8,100 cows plus 650 calves in order for the business
to have a chance, with all the health risks that brings for humans and
animals, or approve a hugely disruptive and unpopular project that is
unlikely to survive financially. The only sensible option is to reject
Food & Water Watch Director Wenonah Hauter said, “It looks to us
like this application fails in several respects on planning regulations,
but the bigger problems revolve around adequate supply of water for the
thousands of animals they want to keep and a place to put all the waste
they will generate. Water from the local aquifer is already fully
committed supplying homes and farms, and local farmers have withdrawn
consent to spread waste on their land, so we can’t see how this is going
to work. And that’s before we even talk about the impact on the local
The initial number of cows at the proposed dairy will generate more
waste annually than the human populations of Manchester and Derby
combined, and the full herd annual waste production would exceed that of
any city in the UK except London. In the U.S., despite regulation of
waste, Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch have found numerous
instances where storage lagoons have failed and untreated waste has
seeped into groundwater and town water supplies. A 2008 spill forced a
town to shut off water supply for two months. With the proposed dairy at
Nocton being sited over a fragile natural aquifer, this could cause
huge damage to people and protected species, like newts, which are
particularly sensitive to manure spills.
Negotiations are “ongoing” to secure changes to water abstraction
permits to supply the factory year-round, but were not in place when the
application was submitted, calling into question the operational
viability of the project.
In addition, health impacts on communities living near mega-dairies include:
- Nitrate contaminated water – Babies who drink nitrate-contaminated
water run a greater risk of developing the potentially fatal “blue baby”
syndrome, where their blood cells lose their ability to carry oxygen.
Several studies have also linked nitrates in the drinking water to birth
defects, disruption of thyroid function, and various types of cancers.
- Water contamination – Arsenic and other toxic metals, antibiotics,
pesticides, and bacterial pathogens where manure is spread on fields
increase the risk of E. coli and Camplyobacter infections.
- Dust particles and toxins from animal feces, hair, and feed can
affect white cell blood counts and cause fever and respiratory illness
- Ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulphide emissions increase the risk
of skin and eye irritation, coughing and wheezing, diarrhoea, asthma,
nausea, headaches, depression, and sleep loss.
EU Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said, “We’re very worried about
the impact on local people. Noise and smell are only the beginning.
Experience in the U.S. shows that communities living near mega-dairies
face a host of serious health problems, some many miles away. Given the
huge opposition to the project, and the fact that it is simply not
needed, we cannot see why anyone would take the risk.”
Mega-dairies have arisen thanks to farmer’s inability to get a fair
price for their milk. Supermarkets are selling milk at less than cost
price while increasing their profit margins and keeping consumer prices
stable. Costs for farmers are going up all the while, so they lose money
on every pint. “It is a scandal, and it is driving family farmers out
of business,” says Mitchell. “Any outfit that comes along claiming it
can succeed in those conditions will do so only by pushing more and more
traditional farms to the wall, and may well fall victim to the same
game down the road. If supermarkets diverted even 20% of their massive
profit on milk back to farmers, we wouldn’t even be having the debate
about a mega-dairy in the UK.”
Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.