Former IDEM official, Bowden Quinn, has an admonition for Hoosier residents – CAFOs and their regulation are our responsibility as citizens of this state and as good stewards of our environment. And, he is right.
Quinn once worked for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and he had to deal with angry and upset citizens protesting the construction of CAFOs in and near their homes and their communities. Citizens argued that CAFOs were a threat to health, safety, and property values because of increased traffic and odors.
IDEM’s standard response to their concerns was always, “That is not our responsibility.” And, again, IDEM is right. IDEM is charged with protecting the waters of our state – not property values, not health hazards, not air pollution issues, and not increased traffic concerns.
IDEM looks at a checklist when it reviews CAFO applications. If the checklist is complete and the appropriate documentation is included along with the established fee, the application will generally be approved. The average turn-around time is 71 days – a little over two months. Not a lot of time to really dig into how the proposed CAFO may impact the surrounding environment, and IDEM is under no obligation to research and visit the proposed sites.
IDEM takes in the application for a “completeness” review, and the proposed CAFO owner sends out the requisite public notice to be added to the “Legal Notice” section of the newspaper – you know, the section where the print is teeny, tiny and doesn’t attract much attention. If the application is complete and nothing is received pursuant to the public notice, the application moves forward and is approved.
State officials, including those at the Indiana Land Resources Council and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, have said land use should be controlled at the local level. The officials have stated they do not want to pre-empt local land-use regulations.
Last year Indiana’s legislature failed to act on any of the three bills introduced to regulate CAFOs. We, as citizens of Allen County, need to begin to pay attention to CAFOs in our “backyard.” No one else is going to do it for us, and you can rest assured IDEM and current CAFOs and CAFO wanna-bees are not going to call the health and environmental hazards to anyone’s attention.
The “Plan-It Allen” comprehensive county plan is simply advisory in nature. If we want change and we want protected, then we need to get ourselves informed and let our county officials as well as our state legislators know that we want regulations put in place for our future protection. It is too late to regulate the three CAFOs already located in Allen County.
If anyone is interested in joining me in setting up a public meeting on this issue or would attend such a meeting, then please let me know. We must take action to let our county officials know we want regulations that deal with CAFOs.