December 15th, 2013 News

Decemer 15th, 2013

IDEM's Decision Still Pending

In this edition of the SLEC newsletter we wanted to let you know that as of December 11th, K&D Contract Pork's application is still pending IDEM's approval. We also wanted to share with you an article concerning the proposed CAFO written by Pete Hippensteel, Technical Vice President of the Steuben County Lakes Council.

Position Paper on the Proposed CAFO

By Pete Hippensteel

The lakes of Steuben County are a unique and extremely valuable resource. They contribute in many ways to the county’s economic and environmental assets. They are the marketing image of the county, “The Land of 101 Lakes”. They attract tourists who help support the wide variety of restaurants and many other businesses that, in turn, employ many of our citizens. “The Land of 101 Lakes” also attracts major investments in shoreline property. The valuable shoreline properties of the lakes make up 66% of the county’s land tax base. These factors are enhanced by the excellent water quality of these lakes. Over the years, there has been a continual effort to improve lake water quality, as well as maintain the improvements to these liquid gems.

The following graph will show the average phosphorus concentrations of the 62 Steuben County lakes sampled by the Indiana Clean Lakes Program. It indicates the progress that has been made by the investment of millions of dollars by many governmental entities and local citizens over the past forty years to reduce phosphorus inputs into the lakes.

Many scientific articles clearly link low phosphorus concentrations to limiting algal and aquatic weed growth, which increases water clarity. This increased clarity is directly related to elevated shoreline property values. Therefore, it is imperative that this nutrient input be kept at low levels. This will assure the good water quality of the lakes, which encourages their extensive residential and recreational use.

Keeping this information in mind, it should be of no surprise that the Steuben County Lakes Council, as well as many shoreline property owners, have great concerns with the proposal to allow the establishment of a 4,800 hog confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) near Pine Canyon Lake, Crooked Lake, Lake Gage and Lime Lake. This CAFO, should it be approved, will become a large nutrient and odor source in an area that has attracted citizens and their investments in lake residential property. This attraction is predicated on good water and air quality, which allows them to fully enjoy outdoor recreational activities.

The quotation from the following article highlights one of our concerns: Effects of Manure Amendments on Environment and Production Problems, P. A. Moore, Jr. et al., “The biggest environmental concern with respect to animal manures is currently phosphorus runoff, since it is normally the limiting nutrient for eutrophication. Eutrophication has been identified as the biggest water quality problem in United States surface waters. Since manure typically has a low nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio, it causes a buildup in soil phosphorus, which may lead to high phosphorus runoff. However, even when soil test P levels are not high, phosphorus concentrations in runoff water can be high. The majority (80-90%) of phosphorus in runoff from pastures fertilized with manure is in the soluble form, which is the form most readily available for algal uptake. In fact, research has shown that the dominant variable affecting P runoff is the soluble phosphorus concentration in the manure.”

Another concern is clearly stated in the article: Managing Agricultural Phosphorus for Protection of Surface Waters: Issues and Options. Sharpley et al., “The accelerated eutrophication of most freshwaters is limited by P inputs. Nonpoint sources of P in agricultural runoff now contribute a greater portion of freshwater inputs, due to easier identification and recent control of point sources. Although P management is an integral part of profitable agrisystems, continued inputs of fertilizer and manure P in excess of crop requirements have led to a build-up of soil P levels, which are of environmental rather than agronomic concern, particularly in areas of intensive crop and livestock production. Thus, the main issues facing the establishment of economically and environmentally sound P management systems are the identification of soil P levels that are of environmental concern; targeting specific controls for different water quality objectives within watersheds; and balancing economic with environmental values.”

At the public hearing on the permit application, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) stated that the Manure Management Plan for this proposed CAFO would be nitrogen based. This agronomic rate approach means that the field’s soil test determines the manure rate of application for the nitrogen nutrient needs for the specific crop being grown. This allows the farmer to apply the manure at higher rates since most crops need more nitrogen than other nutrients. This reduces the acreage needed for spreading and reduces the farmer’s manure transportation costs.

Using Purdue University’s Manure Nutrient Availability Calculator (Joern and Hess, 2004), swine manure typically has 27 lbs of N, 42 lbs of P, and 30 lbs of K per 1,000 gallons of manure. Calculations using typical soil test and crops grown in this area indicate the amount of land needed for a nitrogen-based application rate is about 400 acres per year. If the phosphorus-based rate is used, the amount of land needed per year is about 1,200 acres to more fully utilize the phosphorus nutrient. It is obvious that the higher nitrogen-based rate on the area’s soils with a rolling terrain will create more phosphorus runoff to the lakes.

Adding to the challenges, the following article, Using Manure as a Fertilizer for Crop Production, states, “Farmers are challenged when calculating application rates of highly variable sources of manure. Should they apply a rate that on average supplies the target fertilizer rate or select a rate that guarantees the whole field gets at least the target fertilizer rate? The first strategy insures portions of the field will have nutrient deficits, an economic liability to the farmer; the second strategy maximizes yield but also insures that part of the field will have nutrient excess, a water quality liability.”

Other problematic issues with manure management are the chances of rain within a few days after application that promotes excessive runoff. Fall applications of manure mean that plants will not use the nutrients until the next growing season and some will run off before the plants use them. The method of manure application is at the farmer’s discretion and surface applications without incorporation are prone to high runoff rates. Therefore, there are many factors that can cause runoff events that would increase nutrient inputs to the lakes.

IDEM permits for CAFOs do not address the odors that will be coming from the hog operation, neither from the daily odors of the hog facility nor the more intense odors produced by this operation on days when the manure is being spread on the fields near the lakes. These fields will be chosen at the discretion of the operator and could vary from year to year. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities, states that there is ample evidence that CAFOs do negatively affect residential property values. And the impact may reach as far as three miles. Several other articles also indicate reduced property values and health issues close to a CAFO particularly down wind. The prevailing winds in the area of the CAFO are from the southwest towards the lakes.

In most areas with CAFOs, odor is the major complaint from the neighbors. These complaints range from interfering with outside activities to health issues. The ramifications of these issues are a negative impact on property values of the nearby residents. Many articles express the frustrations of the public with CAFOs. The following report, The Evidence for Property Devaluation Due to the Proximity to CAFOs, describes the possible magnitude of the impact. It states that Clark County, Illinois has established property tax assessment abatements to help mitigate the impact for fifty residential homes around a hog CAFO in the following order: 30% reduction within ½ mile; 25% reduction within ¾ mile; 20% reduction within 1 mile; 15% reduction within 1¼ miles; and 10% reduction within 1½ miles. This would reduce property tax revenue for schools and local governments. What would be the impact on the market value of the individual homes?

The Purdue Extension Bulletin, Community Impacts of CAFOs: Property Values, indicates negligible effects beyond a distance of two miles. The impacted distance from the proposed CAFO of two miles would include Pine Canyon Lake, the 3rd basin of Crooked Lake, and the southern half of Lake Gage. There are about $108 million dollars of assessed lake residential properties within these two miles. It is left up to local zoning officials and the health department to evaluate the negative impacts of the CAFO’s air pollution on the nearby lake residential communities. Ultimately, the lake home’s market value will decide!

The report of The Iowa Policy Project (2007), Hog CAFOs and Sustainability: The impact on Local Development and Water Quality in Iowa does a good job summarizing their experiences with hog CAFOs. “Research on counties of Iowa and the surrounding states indicates that although growth in livestock sales has a modest positive effect on county income growth, the contribution of outdoor recreation amenities is more than five times as great (Monchuk, et al, 2005: 17-18). Because of the odor of concentrated hog manure, and the negative impacts of hog CAFOs on surface water quality, recreational amenities and CAFOs cannot exist cheek to jowl.”

It is readily apparent that IDEM’s current CAFO permit criteria do not include strict enough standards needed to protect the unique water quality conditions of the glacial lakes of Steuben County. This places the four lakes that are in the same watershed as the proposed CAFO at great risk of eutrophication. Also, their permit process completely ignores the impacts of odor on property values and outdoor activities. Therefore, the Indianapolis political agenda of expanded hog development for the State of Indiana must be rejected in this area. The environmental and economic costs to the nearby lake communities would be many times greater than the economic benefits of one more CAFO!

Why should we allow our efforts of the past forty years to go to waste (pun intended) because of a CAFO that will be a large nutrient and odor source? Allowing a concentrated animal feeding operation with its odor and nutrient outputs is not an acceptable choice for maintaining the economic and environmental health of a region dependent on high quality outdoor recreational activities.

Pete Hippensteel, Technical Vice President

Steuben County Lakes Council, Inc.

Links of Interest:

-Former DNR water chief calls manure a threat to rural health by The Country Today

-Helpful Tips for Meat-Eaters by Environmental Working Group

-Steuben Lakes Environemental Consortium (SLEC) Website

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