When it comes to the type of epic man-made pollution problems that inspired the first Earth Day 40 years ago, we’ve come a long way. But according to the Washington Post, the next big pollution problem we face is a big load of crap — literally.

The Washington Post article says, “Animal manure, a byproduct as old as agriculture, has become an unlikely modern pollution problem, scientists and environmentalists say. The country simply has more dung than it can handle: Crowded together at a new breed of megafarms, livestock produce three times as much waste as people, more than can be recycled as fertilizer for nearby fields.”

The excess manure is a problem in many ways. Besides the obvious olfactory intrusion, it’s the United States’ fastest-growing source of methane gas. It washes into streams and waterways (causing 230 “dead zones”), and gives off air pollution that can sometimes form a disgusting brown fog that settles over the area.

"You have to cover your face just to go from the house to the car," said Lynn Henning, 52, a farmer in rural Clayton, Mich., who said she became an environmental activist after fumes from huge new dairies gave her family headaches and burning sinuses.

What is the cause of the growing poop problem in the U.S.?

The Post puts it perfectly, “In recent decades, livestock raising has shifted to a smaller number of large farms. At these places, with thousands of hogs or hundreds of thousands of chickens, the old self-contained cycle of farming — manure feeds the crops, then the crops feed the animals — is overwhelmed by the large amount of waste.”

Despite its environmental impact, manure has yet to be regulated, but that may soon change. On March 1, the EPA announced that reducing manure-laden runoff was one of its six national enforcement incentives.

Farmers may be forced to jump through the costly hoops of following new fecal regulations, or they can find solutions.

Just outside Seaford, Del., poultry giant Perdue has come up with a creative way to dispose of its chicken manure. The company has built a $13 million facility in which literally tons of poultry manure are dried, heated to kill off bacteria, and compressed into pellets of organic fertilizer that is sold to golf courses or homeowners.

Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said there is enough manure to keep more plants like this running — but Perdue isn't planning to build more yet. So far, the fertilizer doesn't sell well enough to make the program cost-effective.

Another alternative manure disposal method may be to harness it. A group of California dairy farmers have banded together and are using methane gas from their cows to generate electricity.

Witness the growing power of poop. 

Manure becomes major pollution problem
Manure generated by large factory farms doesn't just stink, it may also face government regulation.