February 9, 2019


The brown sludge in the video?  Cow manure.  From what I take to be an industrial dairy operation in Parishville NY.  The excess manure slurry is sprayed onto the fields, but, alas, in winter and spring-runoff, the feces flows onto the neighbor’s property and winds up in Garfield Brook, which empties into the Raquette River.

The Town of Potsdam gets its drinking water from the Raquette. Oops!

Here’s the text accompanying the video, from Gary Snell’s Facebook page.  (Gary Snell, Jr.  Not Gary Snell, Sr., who was Potsdam Superintendent of Schools, years ago.) 


I'm by no means anti-agriculture or anti-farming.  Far from that, for sure. I do, however, find this run-off of manure onto our property (today) even over my limit — a half-mile or more of stench flowing into our woods.  Thousands of gallons. This is what happens when liquid manure is spread on frozen ground and snow, on a slope, and we get a thaw like this. And people wonder why there are no trout in the streams like there used to be around here.

This is draining into Garfield Brook and eventually the Raquette River, the Village of Potsdam's water supply. Maybe it should be of some concern to you if you are drinking this? 

And yes, I did both: spoke with the "farmer" responsible and contacted the NYS DEC.

 Potsdam, New York 
Click for another video

So, what’s in this feces besides coliform bacteria?  Bovine growth hormone?  Antibiotics?  

Garfield Brook looked like this the other day, one mile downstream from the above photo — a plume of shit on its way to Potsdam’s 1,624 water service connections, 1 million gal/day, 367 million gal/year.  

How many cowshit plumes are there over the course of the year? How many gallons of Potsdam's 367 million does this crap wind up infecting and otherwise contaminating?


I read the comments attached to the video which, alas, I can no longer access on Facebook.  If I understand correctly what readers (some of them being neighbors) are saying, sludge from at least one sewage treatment plant (Potsdam’s) is possibly being deposited on these fields, along with this cow manure. 

Now take a look at these paragraphs from the Village of Potsdam’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for 2017 (the last year available). I have attached the entire report, highlighted by me.


My background is in microbiology.  (I was in a PhD program in molecular biology at the Univ. of Calif. at Santa Barbara many years ago, and years later in a PhD program at Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology.)  The above paragraphs alarm me; they do not adequately address fecal bacteria and other pathogens in cow manure.


More pointedly, the report fails to indicate how often the village tests for fecal coliform contamination, even as it blandly observes that the Raquette “is subject to rapid changes in quality and contamination with bacteria from wildlife and human activity” — the human activity in this instance being the wholesale dumping of cow manure into upstream water sources. “While there are some facilities present [i.e., industrial dairy farms], permitted discharges do not likely represent an important threat to the source [i.e., drinking] water.” Notice the pass-the-buck word “permitted.” What about non-permitted spreading?  Is the village or DEC realistically policing this?


The report goes on to acknowledge high levels of trihalomethanes. 

“The Village of Potsdam during the year 2017 had two violations. The running annual average for total trihalomethanes exceeded the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) regulatory limits in the first two quarters of 2017. Last summer, the village instituted a program of increased hydrant flushing and turnover of water in the storage tanks, which resulted in compliance with the standards the second and third quarters. This program is ongoing” (p. 2).

The report notes that trihalomethanes (THM) are “the by-product of drinking water disinfection needed to kill harmful organisms [such as fecal coliform bacteria].” This is true, although not the whole story.  "These [THM’s] are formed when source water [in this case, the Raquette R.] contains large amounts of organic matter.” 

What the report fails to disclose is that cow manure is loaded with THM precursors.  Hyper-elevated THM is a byproduct of the Clorox (sodium hypochlorite) used by the water plant plus THM precursors in the abundant cow manure contaminating the river. 

In other words, there is a large burden of fecal matter in the water.  

Click here

What are the health risks from trihalomethanes?  Turns out they are not entirely clear — which doesn’t inspire confidence.  Click here and here for 2 reputable articles.  

Back to fecal bacteria.  So far, Potsdam has been spared a cowshit-triggered health disaster like the one that hammered Walkerton, Ontario (Canada), in 1985. (Click here for an article in the Toronto Globe & Mail.)


At the moment there’s a passionate debate underway in Potsdam over fluoridated drinking water.  Where’s the passion over drinking-water laced with industrially-farmed cowshit? 


You’re probably wondering what FARM is about.  Acronym for Friends Against Rural Mismanagement. We’re a bunch of cranky old-timers who object to farmland, woodland, wildland, marshland, rivers and lakes being screwed — regardless of who is holding the screwdriver.


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Best wishes,