(This piece was originally published on November 7, 2018 by the Northwest Indiana Times.)

An attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council said Wednesday the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s counsel has confirmed an informational meeting is set for Nov. 13 on a controversial dairy proposal.

IDEM on Wednesday afternoon released details of the meeting.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 13 at Lake Township Volunteer Fire Department, 9728 N CR 300 W, Lake Village.

Before IDEM released the meeting details, residents reported receiving emails from an IDEM official with different meeting dates, said Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council.

The distribution of conflicting information to residents is problematic, Ferraro said.

“There should be accurate information out there,” Ferraro said. “The agency should want to be promoting public participation here. That’s the point of a public meeting.”

This issue is important to people, and they need to have a firm date and location so they can make arrangements to attend the meeting, she said.

IDEM refused HEC’s request to extend a public comment period on the Natural Prairie Dairy proposal for 60 days.

“However, IDEM will accept and consider comments until a final decision is made on the application,” a spokesman said.

Ferraro, who is representing several residents opposed to the dairy, said IDEM’s decision on the comment period also is cause for concern.

“The problem is we don’t know when IDEM is going to issue the permit,” she said. “For people to have some sort of assurance that IDEM is actually going to consider their opinions, you need to have some sort of hard deadline.

“What it says to me is that IDEM doesn’t really take citizen comment that seriously,” she said.

Residents fear the proposed dairy could foul the surficial aquifer that supplies their drinking water. Ferraro also has accused Natural Prairie Dairy of promising to use an unproven technology in an attempt to allay residents’ concerns about contamination.

The De Jong family, owners of the Texas-based dairy company, have proposed a confined animal feeding operation housing 4,250 dairy cows and 100 dairy calves at its 2,500-acre property at 4500 W. County Road 400 North, according to a permit application.

Will De Jong, farm manager, previously said his family will “trust the legal and regulatory process” and believes it has “complied with all of IDEM’s regulations within our detailed 279-page permit application.”


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