The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Illinois isn't tough enough in preventing water pollution generated by factory farms. The federal agency conducted a nearly yearlong investigation and found problems with the Illinois EPA's oversight of confined-animal feeding operations. Some of the cattle, hog and chicken operations produce manure in amounts comparable to the waste generated by small towns. The Chicago Tribune reports the investigation was prompted by a petition from environmental groups. According to the U.S. EPA, Illinois has failed to impose limits on water pollution by the farms. It says the state is also slow to respond to pollution complaints or take enforcement action against big feedlots and dairies that violate federal and state environmental laws.
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The growth in the number of factory farms have prompted a growing number of complaints about manure odors and have raised concerns about the huge waste lagoons at the farms contaminating ground water. Among the actions the federal report suggests state officials should take are the creation of a comprehensive inventory of factory farms, a revamp of the inspection program and the development of standard procedures for investigating citizen complaints. The Illinois EPA says it is still reviewing the federal report and is working with the EPA to improve the state's programs. The federal report comes as a proposed dairy operation in northwest Illinois that would house up to 11,000 cows has generated opposition. The Illinois Department of Agriculture approved Tradition Dairy despite objections from the Jo Daviess County Board. A lawsuit filed by citizen groups to block the operation is pending before a state Appellate Court.