On the front end of dairy production, a dairy farm in Alabama has become the epicenter of an epidemic of phlegmy milk.
According to the Alabama Department of Agriculture, more than 60,000 farms across the state are producing phlegmin, or the stinky, milky liquid.
The water, often laced with chemicals, has been found to leach into the environment.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said in a statement it has been working with local dairy farmers to determine the source of the contamination and has begun testing the water and wastewater.
The agency said that, according to testing results, the water was found to be at a concentration of 5 parts per billion (ppb) in several local drinking water wells.
In total, the DEQ said it found more than 40,000 tons of phlogine in four local drinking wells.
“There are other products that are also being produced with the same source of contaminants, and we will work with the producers to make sure that the source is removed,” said state DEQ Commissioner John Burt.
According the Alabama state dairy industry, the phlogamine in dairy products is not from bacteria but from bacteria that have grown in farm soil, soil contaminated with fertilizer and pesticides, or soil contaminated by sewage and manure.
The DEQ’s statement said the company plans to clean up the contaminated soil, test for other contaminants, replace the contaminated water source, and notify local governments about the contamination.
“We have an abundance of farmers who are going to do what they can to clean it up,” said Michael H. Smith, president of the Alabama Dairy Farmers Association, a trade group representing more than 200,000 dairy farmers.
“But there’s an urgency for us to do it in a way that is consistent with the state’s law and the industry’s own regulations.”
The farm was purchased in 2011 by a company called Daphne Farm and is operated by a different owner, who is a retired Alabama Department, Agriculture and Natural Resources (DAAR) employee.
Smith said the EPA and the DEQU have made several attempts to address the issue and are actively working with the farmer.
The EPA is currently in the process of conducting a formal investigation.
“It’s not something we have a lot of time for right now, but we’re going to get it done,” Smith said.
“It’s going to be very costly.”