Mary Taffe took these pictures at the same spot in Big Stone Lake last summer (left) and this summer (right). Photos by Taffe via pollutionsolutionanybody.
Last year at this time, the part of Big Stone Lake near Mary Taffe's house was a murky, smelly mess, just as increased factory farming activity in the Minnesota/South Dakota border area had left it for the previous three summers. After filing complaints with local agencies proved fruitless, Taffe started making dramatic, impressionistic photos of the lake's waters in hopes of drawing attention to its plight -- images of "pretty pollution" that TreeHugger featured in a slideshow gallery in February. Earlier this month, she reported back with the kind of news every environmental journalist hopes to hear."The photos you helped get on TreeHugger along with a local lake group and the economy stopped the factory farm from dumping. The changes in one year are nothing short of amazing. The photos show a dramatic difference... [and] we are breathing clear air," Taffe wrote in an email.
From Green to Blue
Indeed, a photo she took in her Ortonville, Minnesota, backyard on Aug. 5, 2009, shows green, opaque water at the bottom of a ladder leading into the lake. The same scene shot a year later, on Aug. 6, 2010, shows crisp blue water clear enough to see through to the rocks below.
Taffe wrote on her blog that she shared the TreeHugger slideshow with every government representative and agency that she could think of. Other local activists with the group Citizens for Big Stone Lake met with Minnesota Senator Al Franken and presented water-testing results to officials in South Dakota. The lake caught its luckiest break, though, when the factory farm that activists say had been dumping waste into the lake ran into financial woes. The new management, Taffe says, has not been continuing its predecessor's polluting practices -- so far.
Citizens Responsible for Oversight
"[The factory] still has and is allowed to use five new irrigation systems that disperse liquid wastes over the flood plain," Taffe wrote in her email. "South Dakota does not have a regulatory agency for present or future factory farms, yet is encouraging this kind of industry in the I-29 Corridor (our watershed). The state has no interest in committing to any type of water-testing oversight, leaving a local citizen group to keep watch at its own expense."
Though the lake remains threatened, Taffe says it is "much better." Heartened by its ability to bounce back, she wrote on her blog: "The watershed district statistics showed it would take three years for Big Stone Lake to flush itself after the factory farm stopped loading. It did stop over the winter due to a change in management. The resilience of nature is in the pics."
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