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Farmville Future?

CAFOs and Contamination

Co Authors:

Stephanie L. Luster-Teasley
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
North Carolina A&T State University

Rebecca L. Ives
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
Michigan State University


Life has changed for the rural residents of Farmville County since the arrival of four concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); the air has an odor, wildlife has decreased, and illnesses are on the rise. One of the town's residents has become active in collecting water samples in nearby lakes, rivers, and streams and has determined the water has high levels of fecal bacteria. This case study provides a forum to discuss the benefits and concerns associated with the CAFO industry and its waste handling practices. As the story develops, students are assigned the role of county board members who must vote on whether one of the local CAFOs should be allowed to expand operations. To vote responsibly, students must research the CAFO industry and the potential for environmental contamination. An optional lab component teaches students how to analyze water samples for total coliform, E. coli, and Enterococci using EPA-approved methods. The case is particularly suited for an environmental engineering, environmental science, or microbiology course.

  • Learn about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
  • Learn about potential contaminants from CAFOs which enter the environment (air, soil, and water).
  • Understand the environmental impact and effect on the public from agricultural and animal waste as runoff to surface water.
  • Understand the types of microorganisms potentially present from CAFO wastes that can impair surface water and the EPA recommended levels for safe exposure.
  • Learn the membrane filtration technique to measure bacteria levels in natural water samples using recommended methods by the American Water Works Association and EPA.
  • Learn how to use IDEXX as an alternate tool to measure bacteria levels in water samples.
Keywords: Confined animal feeding operations; CAFO; microorganisms; bacteria; indicator bacteria; total coliform; E coli; Enterococci; waste water; water quality; Environmental Protection Agency; EPA
Topical Area: Policy issues, Scientific method, Regulatory issues, Social issues, Social justice issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted, Laboratory
Language: English
Subject Headings: Environmental Engineering   Environmental Science   Microbiology   Agriculture   Food Science / Technology   Public Health   Toxicology   Natural Hazards   Biology (General)  
Date Posted: 6/20/2013
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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