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Iowa CCI discusses concerns with expanding swine facilities

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 11:54 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:46 a.m. CDT

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GREENFIELD — More than 30 concerned individuals and members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) met with Iowa Department of Natural Resource (DNR) officials for an emotional discussion of proposed expansions to swine facilities in Union and Adair counties Monday night.

The meeting was called by Iowa CCI to meet with and encourage the DNR to deny the construction applications of three 2,480 head deep pit swine finisher barns.

Union County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 to approve the recommendation to allow construction that would expand an existing hog confinement Rockin’ G Ranch Site owned by Justin Geidel in section 6 of the Spaulding Township.

Adair County Board of Supervisors split 3-2 in their vote to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources deny the construction of another swine facility at Circle G Pork Site owned by Brady Geidel in section 34 of the Orient Township.

The third site is also in Adair County and owned by Galen Geidel, but the master matrix application has not been turned into supervisors yet.

“I think there were a couple of conversations tonight that we can take back and utilize,” said DNR Environmental Protection Division Director Bill Ehm. “As far as solving all the problems that people feel they have, we are pretty limited on that. I think it is always good when you have a conversation where people can sit down and listen to each other.”

Opposing views

Several speakers addressed Ehm and DNR Field Office 5 Supervisor Ted Petersen with questions and concerns about the proposed buildings in Union and Adair counties and the process of approval for any type of swine facility.

Mark Merritt with Hatfield Lakes described the impact the smell from nearby facilities had on his business. He also voiced concerns with water quality and manure runoff.

Other neighbors addressed the issues of the air quality being a health hazard and the procedure of spreading the liquid manure.

“We rely on people contacting us so we can do a follow up on any complaints,” Ehm said. “Those are the type of things we can respond to.”

Another point of emphasis was the scoring on the master matrix.

“I think there are a lot of places where the DNR is not consistent,” said Iowa CCI Farm and Environment Organizer Jess Mazour. “I think it is important to show people these inconsistency so they lose faith in the DNR and are more like to take action.”

Rockin’ G Ranch Site scored 520, surpassing the minimum passing score of 440. Circle G Pork Site did not pass the master matrix the first time, but did go back and improve the site before resubmitting the application to the DNR.

“We simply administer the law that the legislature has passed,” Ehm said.

The main goal of Iowa CCI is to encourage the DNR to use the Director Discretion Rule that went into effect in 2006. This allows the DNR to deny a new or expanding swine facility because of issues not included on the master matrix score, such as quality of life or community outrage.

No timeline was discussed on when the DNR would be making a decision on the expanding sites, but both sides agreed the opportunity to have a dialogue between both groups is beneficial.

“We can’t not bite a little,” Barb Kalbach said during Monday’s meeting. “Especially living in southwest Iowa, we have to fight for our rural area.”

“It is a chance for us to share our side of the story,” Petersen said. “Sometimes people don’t fully understand what we do or the reasons why we do it.”

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