If you consider yourself a citizen of Indiana and, in this case, Allen County, in particular, then you should be concerned about the construction of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) opening right here in our backyard. Sometimes called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, they are one and the same thing. While I do not want to see anyone put out of business or stopped from making a living, I do believe these industrial-sized operations present a number of environmental issues that deserve – strike that – mandate that the public be considered in the equation and be allowed input.
On October 29, 2007, Robert Schuhler’s paperwork was received by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). His application is for a General National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Notice of Intent (NOI), Construction Notice of Intent (CNOI), and supporting documentation for a modification of an existing confined feeding operation (CFO).
The current feeding operation consists of four buildings housing 500-head nursery pigs, 364-head grow-to-finish pigs, and 324- head sows. The modification Mr. Schuhler has requested will result in two wean-to-finish buildings, each housing 4,400-head wean-to-finish pigs. In addition, Mr. Schuhler will maintain the 500-head nursery building and the 400-head wean-to-finish pig building. The total animal community population – 9,700 animals. That’s up quite significantly from the original numbers.
The above map was prepared using Google Earth, a program I use quite often to see where any number of features are located. The location of the two new buildings is represented by the yellow pins. These were placed based on a map contained in the packet sent to me by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. According to the location in the map, the two buildings are within 100′ of the Snyder Drainage ditch – a ditch that ultimately empties into the St. Marys River.
What is interesting is that in Mr. Schuhler’s application the statement is made on page 2 that “Based on a review of information provided through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Geological Survey, the proposed building site is not located in a floodplain…..”
According to an individual I spoke to at the Allen County Planning Department, the area is either located in a floodplain or pretty darn close to one. When a GIS map is constructed of the location, the area sits touching the floodplain. But why quibble about a few feet? Obviously this won’t be enough to stop the construction from going forward.
Above is a picture I took recently which shows a branch off the Snyder Drainage ditch – probably a drain tile of some sort. At the far end of the road is the Schuhler residence. The road curves to the right and leads to a dead end with other farm buildings located farther to the right behind the wooded area. The location is visible in the above Google picture.
Although not accessible to the public, driving straight back from the road in the picture will lead to the location of the two new buildings.
The Snyder Drainage ditch is located on private property in this area, so I was unable to get back to a location and take a picture of the ditch.
To the right side of the roadway are several homes built back into the wooded area. While the neighbors had to be notified by law, I doubt that many of them understand the nature of industrial factory farms and the potential environmental hazards associated with them.
The estimated amount, in gallons, of total manure, litter, and process wastewater that will be produced in one year from the Schuhler CAFO is 4,099,943 gallons. A gallon weighs approximately 8 pounds. Do the math – that means multiplying 4,099,943 liquid gallons by 8 = 32,799,544 pounds of waste per year that will be generated. No wonder the method is to use gallons instead of pounds. The calculation lowers the waste number drastically.
The method of disposal of all this waste will be by injection into the ground on acreage located in Allen County and Wells County. Some of the waste could be applied by the surface method as well.
I have provided the two-page introduction portion of the application so that those interested can read the basics of the newest factory farm coming to Allen County. This is public information available from IDEM; however, a request has to be made to obtain packets with all the materials filed.
Obviously, this issue concerns me or I wouldn’t be spending so much time and energy in dealing with it. But the issue is not one of us against them – it is much broader. The issues involved in Confined Animal Feeding Operations impact more than just the operator of the facilities; they impact soil quality, water quality, and air quality. These are environmental concerns of the greatest magnitude.
It is high time the public demanded a forum so that our elected officials understand the seriousness of the issue. The CAFO operators are not the only ones who have rights; we are entitled to a clean and safe environment. If that means imposing increased restrictions on CAFOs or even imposing a moratorium on them, then so be it.
The current pace of approving applications will not slow down. The CAFOs will continue to be approved as long as there is very little scrutiny of the process from the public. Last year, our legislature failed to pass any of three bills that were introduced to deal with CAFOs. Why? I have no clue. Our legislators are sent to Indianapolis to pass laws to protect us, as citizens, and the environment in which we live.
This year make sure your legislator knows you want legislation passed. Or we will continue to see CAFOs in our backyards with little public input or local zoning requirements. A clean and safe environment is good for our health; an environment fouled by millions and millions of pounds of waste produced by increasing numbers of CAFOs is not.