While our Congressional delegation fights the EPA’s efforts to regulate water pollution, while Rep. G. Mark Mickelson pins his gubernatorial hopes on deregulating feedlots, while a Canadian hog producer slags South Dakota farmer Frank Kloucek for his environmental concerns and pushes for more hog lots in Bon Homme County, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reports that about four out of five of South Dakota’s lakes and streams are unfit for their designated uses:
South Dakota has about 9,726 miles of perennial rivers and streams (Table 1) and about 87,780 miles of intermittent streams. About 5,858 stream miles have been assessed in the past five years (October 2010 to September 2015). During this 5-year interval, 21.3% of assessed stream miles were found to support the assigned beneficial use; 78.7% did not support one or more beneficial uses. 53.2% percent of stream miles designated for immersion recreation supported that beneficial use.
…DENR assessed 172 of the 576 lakes assigned recreation and/or warmwater or coldwater beneficial uses. The assessed lakes account for 67% of the total classified lake acreage. An estimated 19% of the assessed lake acreage was considered to support assigned beneficial uses [SD DENR, The 2016 South Dakota Integrated Report for Surface Water Quality Assessment, draft report, issued May 2016, p. 2].
The causes of this pollution are both natural and manmade:
Sediment and nutrients conveyed in surface water runoff are the main nonpoint source pollutants impacting South Dakota lakes and reservoirs.
Similar to previous reporting periods, nonsupport for fishery/aquatic life uses was caused primarily by total suspended solids (TSS) from agricultural nonpoint sources and natural origin. Nonsupport for recreational uses was primarily caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination from livestock and wildlife contributions [DENR, May 2016, p. 2].
People pay good money to come to South Dakota to fish, swim, and ride their jet skis. Local boosters feature their lakes and streams as prime reasons to move here. But when we say we want unfettered development of factory farms that will dump cities worth of sewage into our already suffering sparkling pools, we cut the legs out from under one of the best parts of our quality of life.
CAFO poop may smell like money, but no one wants to swim in it.
The DENR water quality assessment is just a draft. DENR invites public comment on this draft through June 8.