CAFO hearing well attended

(This piece was originally published on March 14, 2018 in the Newton County Enterprise.)

On Saturday, March 3, fifty eight concerned citizens came together at the Lake Village Memorial Township Library to gain a better understanding of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that has been permitted and approved by local officials and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to be built in Northern Newton County, Indiana.

The Texas based company, Natural Prairie Dairy Farms LLC, plans to build a facility that will house 4,300 cows and produce 26 million gallons of manure and urine annually. The site of the proposed facility is in the lakebed of the historic Beaver Lake, which has a high water table and is prone to flooding.

Those in attendance represented a variety of concerns including the water quality of local drinking water, the Kankakee River, streams, and the local aquifers. Also talked about were potential noxious gasses from the CAFO and the destruction of the sense of community.

Kim Ferraro of Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) discussed the legal process that is underway to appeal the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) permit which allows construction and operation of the CAFO.

Indiana’s current lax regulations allow CAFOs to be built just 300 feet from lakes and streams, in sensitive environmental areas, and a mere 400 feet from existing homes, regardless of the size of the CAFO and the amount of waste produced. IDEM has no authority under current law to address air pollution or property value impacts from CAFOs, or to deny a permit if a proposed CAFO would threaten public health or the environment as long as the minimum requirements are met. Current laws leave Hoosiers unprotected; HEC is working to pass legislation that would address these regulatory gaps.

With this knowledge, participants discussed how it is the responsibility of local county officials to protect their constituents and their county’s natural resources.

Senator Rick Niemeyer, Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 6th district, was in attendance. He listened to the public’s concerns, and offered support and advice for local activism based on his experiences with similar situations in his hometown of Lowell, Indiana. Senator Niemeyer stated that he would meet with IDEM the following week to discuss the issue at hand and report back his findings.

Those in attendance received a fact sheet about the proposed CAFO and a list of actions they could take to get involved, including calling their local county officials. They also had the opportunity to sign a Petition of Concern regarding the building of a CAFO on the former lake bed of Beaver Lake. Petitions of Concern are in circulation in Newton County at this time.

Opinions reflected in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Newton County Enterprise.

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