In the late 1990s, farming models known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) began committing a series of egregious environmental violations in the idyllic family farming community of Lenawee County, Michigan. With up to a million heads of livestock under their cover–which sometimes create enough excrement to compete with 69,000 people–CAFOs created untreated waste that radically altered the community’s groundwater, rivers and lagoons, and began affecting the well-being of Lenawee’s residents. Toxic fumes of methane, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia led to respiratory problems for the residents, while the untreated waste of blood, bacteria and feces was sprayed as fertilizer only to seep into the groundwater. Working as a Sierra Club Water Sentinel, Lynn traveled 150 miles a week to retrieve water samples, meter readings and pictures of violations. The data was essential to the hundreds of citations issued by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. In 2008, for the first time ever, a CAFO was denied a permit in Michigan.
Lynn Henning is one of six recipients of the 2010 Goldman Prize. Each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors one grassroots environmental activist from each of the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, North America and South and Central America. Philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman created the prize in 1990 to give international recognition and financial support to the winners’ projects and to provide an inspiration for other environmental advocates.