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Letter to the Editor: ‘Big Meat’ threatens water supply, land

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Dear editor,

While you were busy, our legislature and governor have unleashed laws to spread toxic animal waste in virtually every county, every watershed, every river, every lake and every parcel of ground in Missouri. They did this on behalf of “Big Meat” – a bloody clump of four giant international companies that produce meat and butcher animals in rural factories for foreign buyers.

Currently under debate in Jefferson City, House Bill 1691 and Senate Bill 981 would legalize pollution of our state’s waterways and groundwater systems.

What Big Meat wants, they got: access to clean water from our aquifers, minimal oversight and, most important, the right to dump oceans of toxic waste in our state with no limits whatsoever.  To repeat: There are no limits on the amount of waste they’re allowed to dump in Missouri and no private land is safe.

Recently, a Texas-owned slaughter plant near Pleasant Hope decided to dump 350,000 gallons of toxic waste every day into the Pomme De Terre River where it would also ruin our beautiful Pomme de Terre Lake. This is perfectly legal in Missouri; all you need is a pen swipe from a bureaucrat in Jefferson City.

[Editor’s note: The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced a draft denial last year against Missouri Prime Beef Packers discharging treated wastewater into the body of water saying the company didn’t meet all regulatory requirements. In January, the company withdrew its request.]

Missouri law allows unlimited numbers of 4-acre lagoons filled with toxic waste from meat factories, industry and cities. These new lagoons near Joplin hold waste from Arkansas and the ones planned near St. Louis solicited poison from five states with plans to spread this nasty, stinky stuff on private land nearby.

Outraged neighbors have forced a delay, but you could be next. 

Missouri law allows the unlimited spread of concentrated animal feeding operations, toxic waste lagoons, nasty feedlots and slaughter plants. These intruders will be the death of tourism, clean water, fishing, boating, floating and property values. And yet, in the last few years, Big Meat got every bill they wanted. Their plan: Mutate our state from a mixed economy with an abundance of fresh water, tourism, commerce and small farms into an Iowa water-wasteland where most of their rivers are dead, most of their lakes are dead and thousands of private water wells are poisoned.

Missouri mayors and county commissioners have been stripped of their duties to oversee stinking meat factories. These polluters can appear almost any place without public notice, discussion or appeal.

As you may suspect, this crisis is all about money. Big Meat could process their waste like they do in Europe: convert toxins into benign, high-value fertilizer. But no, that costs money, and it’s a lot cheaper to dump waste on private property and in our rivers. Big Meat is less than 1% of our state economy, but they threaten 100% of us. 

Right now, meat factories dump toxic waste in the watershed for Stockton Lake, which provides clean water to Springfield and soon will also supply water to a million people in Joplin and most of southwest Missouri. Aquifers are disappearing around the world while we poison ours – along with our children’s future. 

This is madness and a case of mass suicide. Our legislature can keep their manure-flavored Kool-Aid to themselves. 

That’s why we formed Missouri Guardrails, a project to sound the alarm. We stand for property values and clean water.

We also stand for catfish from a farm pond. For the family float trip. For rope swings in the Current. For lake cabins. For small farms. For pure drinking water. For our way of life.

Several years ago, Big Meat paid to cram “The Right to Farm” down our throats as an amendment to our constitution. What we need right now is “Our Right to Clean Water.” Stand up for your land and your water or you will lose both.

—Dan Chiles, Bois D’Arc

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