(This piece was originally published on January 21, 2019 by Inside Indiana Business.)

A controversial large-scale organic dairy project in Newton County is moving forward. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report construction has begun on the facility for the Texas-based Natural Prairie Dairy project, which is opposed by many due to environmental contamination concerns.

The property sits near the former Beaver Lake and is also adjacent to The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands natural area. Some residents, as well as the Hoosier Environmental Council, expressed concerns that polluted water from the dairy could flow into the Kankakee River and pollute the groundwater that feeds private wells in the area, according to the publication.

Opponents of the project had accused Natural Prairie Dairy of making misleading statements about its plans to use new technology to process manure from more than 4,300 cows and asked the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to evaluate the company’s claims. The IDEM says the company’s plans met existing requirements for a permit without any manure processing.

“For almost a year, we have been attending and hosting community meetings, listening to our neighbors, and based upon valuable feedback, we improved our plans,” said Will De Jong, organic dairy manager for Natural Prairie Dairy. “Our family wants to thank the impartial environmental experts at IDEM for their extensive, rigorous review of our 273-page permit application. In addition, we want to express our appreciation to those in the community who have supported us and those who had concerns.”

Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council told The Times the decision by IDEM to approve a permit for the project is disappointing.

“The decision is nothing less than irresponsible and poses an unnecessary and serious risk to human health, the environment, wildlife habitat and quality of life for people who live nearby,” Ferraro said. “HEC will continue to stand with Newton County residents in their fight to stop this ill-conceived project.”

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