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Farm proposal raises concerns

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Some residents and property owners along the Bartholomew/Decatur County line have raised concerns about the proposed construction of a confined-feeding operation for 4,400 hogs.

The facility would be built 900 feet south of the intersection of State Road 46 and South County Road 950W in Decatur County — about 1½ miles from Hartsville in eastern Bartholomew County.

Residents and farmland owners said they worry that:

The operation will require a substantial amount of water in an area that already has a low water table, possibly stressing the water sources of other property owners.

Public meeting set

What: Indiana Department of Environmental Management meeting to discuss the state’s regulations for confined feeding operations and permitting programs as they pertain to a proposed hog feeding operation that would be built by the Bartholomew/Decatur County line.

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Hartsville Volunteer Fire Station, 150 N. Jackson St.

About the project

What’s it for: 4,400 finishing hogs.

Construction: One barn (101 feet, 10 inches x 341 feet) with a manure pit below it.

Location: About 900 feet south of the intersection of State Road 46 and County Road South 950W in Decatur County _ near Hartsville. The barn would be on the east side of County Road South 950W.

Name: Cook Farm

Owner: Ag Production Enterprises Inc. (Robert and Natalie Pumphrey)

Quality of life and home values could be adversely affected by the odor.

Manure runoff could contaminate groundwater sources or nearby water bodies.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is conducting a public information session from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hartsville Volunteer Fire Station, 150 N. Jackson St., to answer questions about the state’s regulations for confined-feeding operations, concentrated animal-feeding operations and the state’s permitting and inspection programs, according to a media release.

Robert Pumphrey, who wants to build the Cook Farm hog-feeding operation on land he owns, said he is not an official part of the program but plans to attend the meeting and would answer any questions people have.

Pumphrey and his wife, Natalie, co-own Ag Production Enterprises Inc., which operates nearly a dozen hog operations in Decatur and Rush counties. He said the company’s inventory of growing pigs is about 30,000, which they sell for slaughter once they weigh about 270 pounds. Steady growth of the business has necessitated the need for the proposed feeding operation, Robert Pumphrey said.

“Our production and efficiency has increased to where we need more pigs and need added space,” he said.

The proposed site would use about two of the 400 acres the Pumphreys own at that location, he said. They’ve previously used the land to grow corn and soybeans.

The site near Hartsville is more suitable for the proposed feeding operation than other properties they own because the size of the parcel and a low density of houses in the area, Pumphrey said. The manure from the pigs would be used to fertilize their farmland, and grains grown there would be used to feed the pigs, he said.

Columbus resident Greg Daily, who farms land directly across from the site of the proposed feeding operation, said he doesn’t oppose a person’s right to raise livestock but is concerned about the effect an operation of that size would have on the surrounding properties.

Daily, who raises 150 cattle and used to raise about 300 pigs, said such a large operation near homes and a major roadway isn’t ideal.

“I don’t think you would want to build this on 25th Street coming into Columbus,” he said. “You have got to look at what is best for everybody.”

Daily expressed concerns that the amount of manure produced could raise the possibility of contamination of wells or water bodies.

Rural Greensburg resident Jennifer McNealy said the stress this operation could create on the low water supply in the area is a major concern.

McNealy, who has been gathering information for friend Tom Warner, who lives near the proposed site, said the wells in the area are weak, and there is no rural water utility in that area to hook into. Adding the hog-feeding operation would strain the water supply, she said.

About 30 to 40 residents have been meeting for about two months to discuss their concerns, McNealy said. McNealy sent a letter to IDEM on April 8 expressing those concerns, she said.

“I’m really not comfortable. We’re still trying to find out so much,” she said.

Pumphrey said he has several hog-feeding operations in Decatur County where similar concerns have been raised but said they “get along well” with nearby home and property owners.

Those operations use a cistern in addition to wells to create a reserve of water that can be tapped during peak hours of water demand, he said. The wells slowly refill the cistern over a 24-hour period. He also said design elements of the proposed feeding operation would reduce the amount of water each pig needed daily.

Pumphrey said Decatur County officials want to see that IDEM has approved his permit request, and that the project meets environmental regulations, before they decide whether to issue him a building permit.

IDEM’s focus is on manure management and prevention of water pollution, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock said.

“We want to make sure these facilities are constructed and operated so that manure is managed and water quality is not impacted,” Hartsock said.

IDEM’s time frame for making a decision is 90 days after receipt of the application, she said. IDEM received the application for Cook Farm on March 15, so a decision is expected by June 15.

IDEM has a confined-feeding operation committee composed of geologists and engineering and technical staff who decide whether to approve a permit, Hartsock said.

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