Hog farm catches Sierra Club attention

6/6/2014

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The Sierra Club has petitioned the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), calling for the state to implement tighter rules on odors generated by large hog farms.

The organization is calling for KDHE to initiate a rule-making process to address odors generated by large swine feeding operations, such as the Seaboard Ladder Creek hog confinement complex in Greeley County. KDHE approved a permit earlier this year to allow Seaboard to expand its Greeley County facility by up to 396,000 animals.

The Sierra Club believes the state should take into account the size of a confined feeding facility when implementing odor controls.

In a press release Friday morning, the Sierra Club's Kansas Chapter accused the KDHE of not adhering to state law governing odor-control plans at swine feeding operations.

An odor-control plan is required by state law for any swine operation with more than 1,000 animal units. Part of the law also says KDHE should take different facility sizes into account when creating regulations.

The Sierra Club argues that the KDHE makes no distinction between an operation with 1,000 animal units, which is 2,500 hogs over 55 pounds, and the Ladder Creek operation, which is proposed to house up to 158,400 animal units, or as many as 396,000 hogs over 55 pounds.

"It's obvious that a hog factory with 400,000 animals should have to adhere to stricter practices for reducing odors than an operation with only 2,500 hogs," Craig Volland, chairman of the Kansas Chapter's Agriculture Committee, said. "Right now long-time rural residents in Kansas are sitting ducks for an intrusion of massive, smelly hog factories."

In late April, KDHE denied the Sierra Club's petition to reconsider the Ladder Creek permit, and noted the odor control plan adhered to state law because it distinguishes between operations with less than 1,000 animal units and those with more than 1,000 animal units.

Sara Belfry, KDHE communications director, said the Seaboard permit is in compliance with state regulations. The agency is reviewing the petition submitted by the Sierra Club, she said, but there is no timeline available concerning when a determination about it will be made.

The Sierra Club's petition contends a new rule is needed to address very large operations and that additional odor-control steps need to be taken for those types of facilities.

In its petition, the Sierra Club recommends several remedial provisions to correct the rule for odor control plans:

* Require biological treatment with industry standard minimum biological volumes for confined swine operations.

* Optimize the number of days between pit flushings to reduce barn odor and maintain a steady biological treatment system in anaerobic lagoons.

* Require neighbors to be notified before wastewater is applied to fields.

* Require verification of sufficient available water to properly implement the odor control plan and grow crops to take up wastewater.

The petition can be viewed at http://kansas.sierraclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/KansasSwineOdorPetition.pdf.

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