August 30th, 2013 News

August 30th, 2013

Concerns many about possible hog farm

We want to thank IDEM for coming to Angola on August 22nd, to present information on the proposed CAFO at 600W and 200N and to address concerns from a large number of Steuben County property owners. We also want to thank those who attended the meeting and asked questions. The main concerns are protecting our water quality (which is IDEMs only concern) and our air quality, which, in turn, affects our quality of life, health, property values, and local economy.

Summarized below is what we heard at the meeting; you decide if IDEM’s regulations and oversight are adequate to address your concerns. Our group continues to have concerns.

-IDEM only “assures” that the application meets minimum code standards at the time of approval. They are unconcerned as to the location of the operation or the location of the manure fields only that there is enough acreage to accommodate the anticipated manure production. Location is up to local officials to determine.

-Up to 2 million gallons of manure and wastewater will be applied to area fields, which have the following limitations “The soil readily absorbs but does not adequately filter the effluent in septic absorption fields. The poor filtering capacity may result in the pollution of ground water supplies.” This is a quote from the Steuben County Soil Survey produced by USDA in cooperation with Purdue University.

-IDEM doesn't test the water or soil, for e-Coli, growth hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals or other substances often found in the waste materials at CAFOs. The CAFO is only required to test feed and manure for levels of nitrogen, which panel members stated is unstable and mobile in the soil, as well as phosphorus.

-IDEM waits until the CAFO is ready to produce manure before approving the CAFO’s land application plan, including where the manure and waste will be spread, so there is a potential for fields to be in the application, removed and then re-introduced. IDEM doesn’t go look at the fields; it just looks at topography and soil survey maps for the sites designated in the plan. However, any field is eligible for manure application - CAFOs choice. There is no assurance that a field eliminated from the current plan won’t be used in the future, or that others in the area won’t be added.

-IDEM allows operators to choose how to transport manure and waste water to the fields -- by tank wagon; semis with liquid tanks that are then loaded onto spreading vehicles; or pumping stations with hoses along the roads to the fields. Our concern is accidental leaks or spills could flow into our wetlands and lakes.

-IDEM allows operators to decide if manure and waste water will be sprayed on the fields, or knifed into the soil. Spraying is easier in areas like ours that are rocky; while knifing minimizes odors and the uniformity of application is better. Based on IDEM's statements at the Aug. 22nd meeting, knifing minimizes odor. Our primary concern is there is greater risk of pollution from runoff after a large rainfall, with spraying. Further, since nitrogen is “mobile” and unstable in the soil, what happens to the nitrogen, and other contaminants, in the fall application? Are they truly available and used by crops that are growing the following spring and summer, especially in light that another application is made before spring planting? Or is this merely dumping of industrial agricultural waste?

-Each barn will have a concrete manure pit that holds 999,800 gallons of manure and waste water. According to soil tests the bottom of the pit is only 3’ from the seasonal high water table. Our concern is any unintended leakage from the pit will have a fast track through a scant 3’ of glacial till (sand and gravel) to the ground water.

-IDEM rarely requires CAFOs to install “monitoring wells,” that serve as an early warning system for leaks, spills, seepage, etc. Instead, IDEM recommends that residential wells and lake water be tested and asks residents to report any unexplained changes in water quality. Our concern is this is after fact and local residents are responsible for the monitoring cost. Once a problem is identified how is immediately remedied or do we need to wait for Mother Nature to cleanse the problem while we continue to draw our drinking water from the tainted aquifer? Or will we need to boil all drinking water prior to use? And what is the likelihood that we will be unable to use our lakes?

-IDEM defers to the Board of Animal Health (BOAH) on the disposal of the estimated 960 dead hogs per year. The CAFO permit application states dead animals will be composted on site. Our concern is potential runoff or leaching into ground water will not be detected until it is too late and passes monitoring off to the operator or neighbors.

-IDEM has a "zero discharge" policy for manure in ground or surface water. It is unclear how the minimal setbacks will accomplish a "zero discharge" given that the CAFO is not required to plant filter strip vegetation, riparian boarder, nor otherwise have any unique ability to stop surface water runoff. IDEM has never revoked a permit, rather the Permitee is allowed to remedy the problem and they did not elaborate on the cost of remediation.

-IDEM doesn’t require that CAFO owners be bonded so if something unexpected occurs and the owner can’t cover the costs, it will be up to the taxpayers. IDEM cannot regulate (or control) unexpected disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding, and heavy rainfalls that can cause immediate and irreversible damage, especially here in “lake country.”

-IDEM has 6 or 7 inspectors for the existing 1,881 CAFOs in the state of Indiana, which is between 269 to 314 inspections per inspector, and they are adding 85 – 100 CAFOs annually. No applications have been denied in the last few years, but some have withdrawn their application. The inspectors "try" to visit each CAFO every 5 years unless issues arise which cause concern or damage. Some counties have 97; Steuben already has 4.

Mr. Stockwell pointed out that he, as well as Mr. Werner, are from multi-generational agricultural families and their goal is a well-managed operation. It is important to recognize that many of us who oppose the operation at this site also have multi-generational agricultural ties and is neither anti-agricultural nor anti-business; in fact, quite the contrary. Perhaps the difference is that we are also multi-generational lake residents, and recognize the potentially significant threats to our lake environment, which extends far beyond IDEMs oversight of water quality, that could affect everyone in Steuben County.

At the meeting, State Representative Dennis Zent made it clear that "IDEM's hands are tied by existing state regulations" and those standards may not be suitable for the farms in the vicinity of the lakes of Steuben County, considering the soil types and topography. He continued by stressing the importance of “location, location, location.”

We feel it is imperative that IDEM strongly consider the risks to water quality and that our local officials consider all the risks and weigh the financial benefits of one (or a few) compared to the potential financial, health, and welfare of many thousand in our community. In the end, we believe it is about community and good stewardship and are hopeful that our elected officials, and their appointees, will make prudent decisions for the good of the community as a whole. We encourage concerned citizens to join our efforts.

Compiled by David Bruns, Kathy Bruns and Tom Danford on behalf of Steuben Lakes Environmental Consortium, LLC

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