As investigators seek to find the cause of the massive fire that destroyed the Straathof Swine Farm facility in Wayne Township June 19 and killed approximately 5,000 swine, the lengthy clean-up and disposal process at the scene has begun.
“Clean-up started out there on Monday, and basically what they’re doing is systematically going through and removing parts of the barn…the actual metal,” said Mark Bruce, communications director at the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). “If there are actual animal carcasses in that area, they’re taking those carcasses out and disposing of those immediately by taking those to a landfill. It’s a slow process because you can’t just take everything to the same place. The metal has to be separated out and then the animal carcasses have to be taken to a specific landfill that can accept those.”
The cause and the origin of the fire are still under investigation, according to the Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office, and no foul play is suspected. Kelly Stincer, an Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office public information officer, said investigators hope to close the investigation in the next couple of weeks.
Throughout the day of the fire, firefighters from five counties battled the blaze at 7111 Old Route 35 Southeast. Along with the Washington and Wayne Township fire departments, firefighters and resources were requested from the Concord-Greene, Bloomingburg-Paint-Marion, Jefferson Township and Pic-A-Fay fire departments. As the fire continued to intensify, additional fire agencies and resources from Highland, Ross, Pickaway and Greene counties were requested to respond and assist with battling the fire and providing water tankers. The Fayette County Emergency Management Agency and Fayette County EMS also responded to the scene.
On Friday, Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson described the destruction at the scene as “pretty catastrophic,” and asked that Wayne Township residents be patient during the clean-up process.
“It’s quite a challenge they have in front of them as far as the carcasses and the structure,” Anderson said. “Frankly, it’s difficult right now to get the kind of equipment back there that is needed. The local health department and the EPA have been out there, and the health department is watching closely as workers attempt to clear the under-building septic tanks and making sure that nothing above ground is exposed. It’s not easy work, it’s a big problem and a big mess right now. We understand people are concerned…and we are very concerned. But with that being said, they’re going to go slow and they’re going to be cautious.”
Unfortunately for many Wayne Township residents, there will be an unpleasant odor for some time, Anderson said.
“We have not forgotten the loss of animal life, as well as the economic impact surrounding this devastation,” he added. “But everyone is working hard to minimize and mitigate any potential harm. This a long-term project and we are just asking for patience and understanding. We also encourage residents not to go back to the area.”
The Straathof Swine Farm, which is permitted under the ODA’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, was granted a permit in November of 2011 to expand to a maximum capacity of 5,760 swine, according to documents provided by the ODA. Prior to that time, the farm had less than 2,500 hogs.
The last inspection that occurred at Straathof Swine was April 4. Bruce said the facility has never had a violation.
“The manure is contained, so once they get everything cleaned up, we’ll work with them to make sure that gets applied and taken care of appropriately,” said Bruce. “One of our inspectors has been checking in to make sure there are no hazards as the clean-up happens. So far everything is going as it should.”