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Steve McKnight and son by one manure pit.
Steve McKnight and son by one manure pit.

'Mega-Dairies': Stewards or Polluters?

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State environment officials continue to investigate what caused a 3 million gallon manure spill in the Black River near Lowville. A lagoon failed on the Marks Farm, a 3,000 cow dairy operation. The manure flooded into the river, killing an estimated 200,000 fish and devastating tourism for at least two weeks. The catastrophe is firing up a debate over whether large farms are safe for people or the environment. The New York Times penned a scathing editorial on what it termed "mega-dairies". The paper called for "far stricter environmental standards" and opportunities for communities to vote large farms out of town. There are more than 100 dairy farms in the North Country with more than 300 cows. The farmers say their operations are cleaner and safer than ever. But critics question that, and they wonder whether the facilities should be treated as farms at all. David Sommerstein reports.

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Mechanical scrapers clear McKnight's barns of manure day and night.

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