Water Pollution from Livestock in the Shenandoah Valley

As families plan for the annual ritual of rafting down the Shenandoah River, a new report about livestock industry manure runoff reveals unhealthy levels of bacteria, phosphorus pollution and frequent algae blooms that threaten the recreational use of the valley’s waterways.

Most of the manure from the 159 million chickens, 16 million turkeys and 528,000 cows raised annually in the valley’s Shenandoah, Augusta, Page, and Rockingham counties is spread on surrounding farmland as fertilizer, but contains far more phosphorus than crops need for growth. The excess manure leaks pollutants into groundwater and is often washed by rain into surrounding streams.

The report relies on state records to document that more than 90 percent of the water quality monitoring stations where the state regularly samples the Shenandoah River and its tributaries detected fecal bacteria (E. coli) at levels unsafe for human contact in 2014-2016.