THE SCHUHLER CAFO IN YOUR BACKYARD

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.

Schuhler CAFO construction site

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.

Schuhler Application - page 1

Second page

Schuhler CAFO Application - page 2

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.

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Agriculture and Food Production, Clean Water Act, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, Environment, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Industrial farms, Soil Pollution, St. Marys River, Water Pollution. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to THE SCHUHLER CAFO IN YOUR BACKYARD

  1. Brian Cotswald says:

    As for the nutrients/manure from these “quad” barns. 4000 head of hogs are housed at once, and the barn is emptied and filled two times a year, thus 8000 pigs are raised there per year. A pig will generate approx. 190 gallons of manure per head (from 15 pounds to 250 pounds) So, a quad barn would produce about 1,520,000 gallons of waste nutrients per year. Depending on the soil type, and soil nutrient tests, “normal” agronomic rates one would apply manure would be between 6,000 and 10,000 gallons per acre, applied every other year. This will provide the majority of the nutrients needed for a two year, corn-bean rotation period. 1.52 million gallons divided by 8000 gallons per acre means the farm needs 190 acres (each year, for two years, so 380 acres total) to very safely and agronomically utilize manure from that quad building. This land does not have to be owned by the farm, however, if the farm does not own that land, IDEM will require they have signed contracts showing where the farm has permission to utilize those nutrients. I see by the IDEM permit application, Mr Schuhler as 607 acres available to apply too. And by the photo you provided, it sees that is right in his back yard, so this seems like a good site to me. He will be able to drag line the nutrient right to the field, thus staying off the roads with semis. He will not be “pushed” for ground to apply too, so he should not have to apply too heavily. The Snyder ditch is a concern that needs to be addressed and watched over, but certainly that is a manageable situation.
    Back to that 8000 gallons per acre. The majority of farms inject that liquid, slurry under the ground either before planting in the spring, or after crops come off in the fall. To get a mental picture of what 8000 gallons per acre are: a one inch rain fall, over one acre of land, will produce 27,154 gallons of water. So we are talking about “knifing under-ground” the equivalent of just over 3/10 of an inch of liquid per acre.
    I visit my neighbors about 2 days before we apply and explain what we are going to be doing. Then I usually go back and visit during the application. IF that application is done correctly, they will hardly even know it is being done. I have actually had people ask me on that second visit “… when will you be applying the manure…..” I explain we are doing it now, as they are going through the field. They said, well we thought they were just plowing up the field first, we don’t smell a thing. That is the very truth as it has happened to me, on more than one occasion.
    I do not know Mr. Schuhler, nor his past history with his farm. I hope he has a good working relationship with his neighbors, keeps them well informed and he should do well with his new addition. Two years from now, I doubt they even know a change has been made.

  2. J. Q. Taxpayer says:

    Brian,

    I have kept on top of your posts and fully understand how you see things working “right!” My problem is when they don’t.

    Go to the Allen County GIS site and locate the farm. Then turn on the flood plain for the ditch that runs on his property. Tell me that gives you a warm feeling for the long term!

    What happens during the winter when the ground is frozen? Is the manure sprayed on the top then?

    Brian, you are so right if things are done right we should not have one small problem. We are trying to clean up our rivers so they can be used during the summer months. The last thing we need is more “crap” of all types getting into the river.

  3. Brian Cotswald says:

    J.Q.,
    I did just as you suggested. I see your concern and point. However, assuming Ms Weybright has the points correct for the construction site, the ditch and flood plain is west of the bldg site (a little) From what I know about construction of new barns, they will dig down about 4 to 5 feet, and use that soil to compact upward, thus bringing the new building up about 4 feet above the surrounding ground. These buildings have an 8 foot “basement” (pit) under them, so they will dig down 4 and come up 4 (roughly) to raise the site. That makes a big difference in the flood plain view. Then the majority of the field east of the buildings is out of the low area, so that is positive. The cement code used for these pits is “water tight”, so ground water is not going into the pits and if the buildings are now that much higher, it is not going over the floor. Granted… I am trusting IDEM has reviewed and agrees with that…. something you and I probably differ on. I understand your concern about IDEM reviewing and managing as they should, and see why you would want to look over their shoulder to make sure it is built this way.
    Note on the permits, IDEM is calling for a tile, place around the whole constructed building. That tile will be 2 foot lower than the pit and 2 feet away from it. It then goes to a central location that will be sampled for any signs of leaking from the structure. A very good (and costly) way to monitor the site that has been recently added to the IDEM building codes.
    Frozen ground… first of all, application to frozen ground is not permitted. The pit size of 8 feet should assure he has the storage to make it through the winter, frozen ground months, and he can apply in the spring and fall, when ground conditions are good. I am not saying application is never done on frozen ground, but there are strict rules and regs to follow…the ground must be almost totally flat, there has to be an emergency reason, and the farm must have a pre-approved plan to allow it to be done. Basically, most people I know just consider it not legal to do, and we avoid having to do it.
    I know, I am an optimist, a Don Quixote… trying to show people that we CAN live together in the country, and that modern agriculture practices are NOT going to be the death of us all. I hate it when we are ALL placed in a box, labeled “Danger – CAFO inside” by people that really do not understand all we do to avoid problems.

  4. Brian:

    My points of reference for the two new buildings were obtained from the drawings and plans received from IDEM. The information shows the western most building about 100′ from the Snyder Drainage ditch. This is not much of a distance. My lot for my home is 100′ long.

    I am not sure why Mr. Schuhler chose to build so close to a ditch or why IDEM would approve such a location.

  5. Brian Cotswald says:

    Waste management systems must be located
    so they maintain the minimum setback
    distances from the following “features of
    concern” that are known and identified at
    the time the application is submitted:
     One thousand (1,000) feet from a public
    water supply well or public water supply
    surface intake structure.
     Three hundred (300) feet (for liquid
    manure storage structures) or one
    hundred (100) feet for solid manure
    storage structures from surface waters of
    the state, drainage inlets (including
    water and sediment control basins),
    sinkholes (measured from the opening
    or the lowest point) and off-site water
    wells. Refer to “New Liquid Manure
    Storage Structures” page 16 and “Solid
    Manure Storage Structures” page 18.
     One hundred (100) feet from on-site
    water wells, property lines and public
    roads.

    ___________________________________________

    I would agree, 100 feet seems too close. As I would understand the above rules, it would be 300 feet, unless Mr. Schuhler was granted a variance by offering to build some kind of safety features that made IDEM feel they could waive the 300 foot rule. I think local zoning can sometimes kick in and extend these rules. That seems like a good question to me. Is Mr Schuhler accessible to call and ask? I know if I was doing this building project, I would have no problem if a concerned person called and asked that question, or call Mr Parks from IDEM. They will usually answer questions like that.

  6. I have left messages, please call me at 812-890-0678.

    Thanks,

    John G. Corrona, LPI/IN-IL
    Agency Director / Owner
    Covert Inquiries – Investigations
    http://www.covertinquiries.com

  7. Ira says:

    From our experience, IDEM only checks the actual plans for the facilties. They have rules for where not to place a CAFO, but don’t follow them.

  8. Ira says:

    From our experience, IDEM only checks the actual plans for the facilties. They have rules for where not to place a CAFO, but don’t follow them. The one near us wouldn’t have been placed there because of 7 out of 10 rules, but the plan was approved.

  9. Mike says:

    I went onto http://www.in.gov and found this:
    327 IAC 15-15-4 Performance standards and effluent limitations
    (c) Animals in any confinement area must not have direct access to waters of the state.

    I only wish your blog site allowed downloads. I have several pictures of cattle laying in a stream. There’s no doubt that the farmers look at this as a joke. And it’s pretty sad when Indiana doesn’t re-enforce the rules that it lays down.

  10. Ira says:

    We talked with Jill Long Thompson and asked her if she would insist that IDEM follow the regulations that were already on the books. She acted surprised that those weren’t being followed and answered us with a “yes”. We also discussed that some additions were needed to the regulations. She agreed. This topic alone convinced me that I am voting for her.

  11. Ira and Mike:

    What is so frustrating is that our General Assembly hasn’t been able to get off dead center and pass any meaningful laws that regulate setbacks, distances, etc. For several years now bills have been introduced, but the lobbyists manage to scare the pants off the legislators with their tactics – namely the notion that the laws will strangle farming.

    So the legislators say it is up to the counties to pass legislation. But many of the county plan commissions have no clue what is going on, so they delay and ignore the issue.

    While the state and counties dither, Daniels and Skillman are probably grinning ear to ear with the dozens and dozens of new CAFOs that are springing up.

  12. Ira says:

    Charlotte,
    It is more than just the lobbyist. One of our state senators is in control and won’t let the bills out the committee even when they have been worked on and are better than nothing. She never lets them come up for a vote. Interesting.

    Also some of the plan commission members and/or county commissioners have cafos of their own.

  13. Ira:

    I remember seeing that one of the state senators opposed the bills and stalled them.

    I know in Randolph County – I believe – one of the issues was a conflict of interest.

    I am hoping to hold a meeting in the near future. I have not had time to organize, but I believe the only way to get something done is to mobilize people who care about the environment.

    In Allen County, the Commissioners aren’t even informed about CAFOs. I had to explain what they were to one of our Commissioners back in the spring of this year.

  14. Ira says:

    Neither were LaGrange county commissioners 2 1/2 yrs. ago, but with a group of my neighbors I work with, we all understand a lot more about them. We did 1000s of hours of research and have worked with many experts in educating ourselves. We our in contact with great grass root groups in other counties in the state and are working together.

    Some of our county’s citizens with public officials worked together to establish confined animal feeding operation regulations. I am proud of what our commissioners had the forsight to do. They are so much better than most counties have in place.

    “Farmers meeting the needs of today with respect for the needs of tomorrow.”

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