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For the week of January 24 through 30, 2001

Opponents say hogwash to pig farm


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

An industrial-sized hog farm proposed by a Ketchum resident for a site east of Burley has run into opposition from a local Farm Bureau director and both of Ketchumís state legislators.

Big Sky Farming Group, LLC is seeking a permit to build a contained animal feeding operation (CAFO) and a conditional-use permit to raise over 10,000 animals from Cassia County for its proposed 5,090-acre hog farm on the Raft River 24 miles east of Burley.

According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the design capacity of the swine facility would be 595,000 hogs.

"Mega hog factories pose a long-term environmental and health threat to our communities," stated Idaho Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, in a Jan. 19 press release.

Stennett called the developerís plans "hogwash," and added that "half a million pigs will be produced annually, generating roughly the same amount of waste produced by every man, woman and child in Idaho."

Ketchum resident and Blaine County developer Ron Achs is the owner of record of Big Sky Farming Group. Achs declined to comment on his plans when contacted by the Mountain Express.

Russell Brown, an Idaho Falls chemical engineer and opponent of the proposed facility, said in an interview that the operation will produce "200 million pounds of pig poop per month, which will contain 150 chemicals--some noxious, some toxic, some deadly--and they don't go quietly into the night.

"The startling thing is the DEQ has issued a draft [swine and poultry] permit for this but they never looked at what the chemistry of it was. It will create 8.4 million pounds of ammonia per year. They have no way to control it. Also there will be about 375,000 pounds per year of hydrogen sulfite. Itís so deadly that if I released six ounces of it in the [Burley High Schoolís Little Theatre, where a P&Z public meeting was held Friday], it is of such a concentration that the EPA specifies it as immediately dangerous to health and life."

Big Skyís application states that 50,388 tons of sludge would be produced annually.

Plans submitted to the DEQ show how the company would control odors, surface water contamination and various health and environmental concerns.

Big Sky proposes to flush waste into settling basins and heated anaerobic digesters enclosed with synthetic liners. The remaining waste would be discharged into evaporation ponds, which would cover nearly 200 acres. Containment berms, waste removal and monthly environmental reports to the DEQ are also planned.

There has been no previous application in Idaho with pollution-control technology like that proposed by Big Sky, said DEQ spokesperson Mike McMasters. He said similar technology to keep the environment clean and to limit odor does exist in some states, including Colorado, Utah and Iowa.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who is opposed to the plan, said in an interview that a state legislator in North Carolina, where there is such an operation, told her, "Donít let those people come into your state."

Cassia County Farm Bureau Board of Directors president Michael D. Garner, in a recent letter to the Twin Falls Times-News stated, "We believe that mega CAFOs do not contribute positively to rural America and indeed, have caused significant problems in areas where they have been allowed." Garner lives across the street from the proposed facility.

Stennett also pointed out that the life span of a CAFO is generally about a dozen years.

"Cassia County and Idaho taxpayers will be left with staggering costs of cleaning up the environmental damage," he stated in his press release.

McMasters said that "itís up to the Cassia County planning and zoning folks now. Odor is a big concern over there."

Cassia County administrator and zoning administrator Tim Hurst said the P&Z will meet Thursday to determine whether it has enough information to close the public record. The P&Z will have 30 days from then to make a decision.

 

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