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
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
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
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
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.