Letter: Schools deserve breathing room from CAFOs

From: Kate O’Halloran


In a recent edition of The Republic, we learned that Rockcreek Elementary School will undergo renovations. Teachers, staff and parents must certainly be thrilled. I wonder, though, how many people are aware that a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) can currently be approved a mere 100 feet from the school’s property line, with 4,400 hogs standing on a grated floor above a pit filled with their waste. Giant fans blowing ammonia and hydrogen sulfide — elements toxic to human lungs — out of the barn and off to envelop every household, school, church and park in its path.

Our kids are worth the highest-quality school buildings we can afford, but a renovated building is lipstick on a pig if that building is surrounded by polluted air.

The proponents of CAFOs use phrases such as “property rights” and “the right to farm,” but the rest of us would like a conversation about our “right to breathe.”

The county’s CAFO study group has had no presentation by a credentialed public health expert. (And every request for this has been ignored.) Other, far less populated counties, with very little access to non-farm industry, have instituted ordinances giving wide berth to places where people congregate, including schools. Rush County, for example, requires a one-mile separation between a CAFO and a school. The people who made this decision, nearly all with a tie to agriculture, know that farm-related activities must be balanced with all other activities for the good of the entire community. Somehow Bartholomew County is distilling itself down to what is good for the community of CAFO owners.

Please contact the County Commissioners office and ask that our ordinances be changed to recognize the public health threat these facilities represent to every set of lungs in the county. Give our kids an education in a safe environment; give them a mile.