Hog facility will have devastating impact

Dear fellow residents of the Jones, West, Danville, Myers, White Oak Road vicinity of Paint Township, we have just learned from one of the Paint Township Trustees, Duane Matthews, that he has agreed to lease 20-plus acres to John Surber of Sabina, owner of the Sabina Farmers Exchange, Premier Feeds and many confined hog raising facilities across the state, for the construction and operation of a 2,400 hog farrowing facility.

He intends to construct and operate the facility to be located on the former Craig farm on Jones Road in Paint Township, and which will be approximately 2,800 feet across a field directly opposite our home on Myers Road. This development will have a devastating and adverse impact on our home and on the surrounding neighborhood property and residents. The economics of large-scale animal feeding operations aside, the size, scale and manner of operation of this facility will result in a provable and serious loss to property values and other damage to the environment in our neighborhood. Given the close proximity of many surrounding residences, this is the classic example of an industrialized farming operation being located in the absolutely wrong place.

This facility will not require any permit from the Ohio Department of Agriculture being just under the 2,500-head permitting threshold. Ohio law also prohibits, yes prohibits, any other local regulatory oversight whether building or zoning since this facility will be located in an agricultural district. In addition, neither the Ohio EPA nor the local health department has any authority over the operations of these facilities unless there is some crisis which affects the public health, the waters of the state including local creeks and streams, or the water table. Ohio law even has been changed to prohibit, yes prohibit, any citizen from filing a civil lawsuit for any nuisance which the facility might produce unless it rises to the level of a public health problem or damages the water supply or other waters of the state.

This proposed facility will include a huge manure pit under the structures to contain all that the animals produce. The usual operations of the facility will produce intermittent odors that emanate from the numerous exhaust fans in the buildings and from the actual application of the manure to the surrounding land. The manure will be pumped periodically from the pit and is supposed to be “knifed” into the farmland surrounding the farm. Since there are not enough acres on this farm to accept all the manure produced, trucks will have to haul it to other Matthews farmland or other places in the vicinity that have contracted to have it applied to their land. In addition the manure pit will have to be completely emptied during the year which will result in an unbelievably strong and pungent odor causing event. There also will be substantially increased noise and traffic on Jones Road and surrounding roads from the manure hauling trucks, as well as livestock and feed trucks, and the cars from the employees who work at the site.

We have talked with the Matthews and Mr. Surber and encouraged them to find another location outside the area that is more remote and more suitable. Their response was polite but not helpful. They tried to reassure us that the impact to our property will be minimal, that the prevailing winds will mean any odors will be blown away from us, that there will be no fly, insect, rodent, or other odor problems aside from the times the manure is applied to the land and the manure pit is emptied. They concede there will be noticeable odors on those occasions, and perhaps some odor from time to time during routine operations. What they have not addressed is the impact to the area water supply. We all depend on wells for our household water supplies. We already have seen the impact from the 1.4 million gallons per day that the ethanol plant uses from the wells in the Madison Mills area, and this facility proposes to drill a new deep well on the land from which they expect to use 10,000 gallons per day!

The entire statutory and regulatory process should be reviewed and revised at the state level. The facilities that fall under the permitting threshold limits still should be subject to review to ensure that the location does not adversely impact nearby neighbors. Some siting control also should be required, with periodic monitoring regardless of permit size. We understand farmers and the Ohio Farm Bureau (of which we are members) will vehemently object to any such proposals, but the current enforcement mechanism is wholly insufficient to protect the public. And the statutory immunity of industrialized farming operations from so-called nuisance lawsuits must be revised. These entities are more than big enough financially to protect themselves, and there is no good public policy reason to prohibit the average property owner from pursuing legal recourse for legitimate complaints.

Township trustees are the elected officials who are closes to the people of the community in rural areas. We do not for one moment disparage the legitimate agribusiness interests of any of our elected officials. However, regardless of occupation, a trustee has a responsibility to all residents of the township, and it is a serious conflict for a trustee to place his or her personal self-interest above the well-being of the community at large.

We strongly encourage all our neighbors and other residents of Paint Township and Fayette County to support our opposition to this project. Please call and write to the Matthews family, John Surber, local officials, State Sen. Bob Peterson and State Rep. Gary Scherer, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels, and Assistant Director John Schlichter, and tell them this is the wrong place for this facility, and to request that the state law and regulations be changed to provide the state and local oversight, and meaningful public input, which is needed to properly regulate size, operation and location of facilities like these that now require no permits or other approvals.

Fayette Countians need to be aware of these continuing developments.

Dan & Cindy Drake

Myers Road

Paint Township