Letter: Avoid cookie-cutter CFO ordinance; opt for Purdue model

From: Rick Hand


I live in the Hawcreek Township area. Despite plenty of opposition, an ordinance about proximity to residential property was ignored in 2014 for a confined feeding operation (CFO) located on County Road 800N in Hawcreek Township. The county government made it obvious the rights of everyone weren’t being considered equally.

Without ordinances established with consideration for all residents, how are we as a community ever to hope for any semblance of equal co-existence?

While investigating the pros and cons of confined feeding operations, I discovered the Hawcreek area is home to eight out of 10 of the CFO/CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in Bartholomew County. I wondered why these operations are clustered in one township. After looking into the lay of the land, population density and average annual income, I have determined the obvious difference between Hawcreek and other townships is economics.

The average annual income for a Hawcreek Township resident is $20,000. The federal government defines this level of income for a family of three as poverty. Further confirming this fact, Hope Elementary has 54 percent of its student body in the free/reduced lunch program. Hawcreek is the poorest township in Bartholomew County. Hawcreek is the path of least resistance for industrialized farming. The residents in this part of the county do not have the means for legal fees that would be accumulated through opposition to these applicants.

Because of Hawcreek’s economic affliction, a primary life source, water, is being threatened. The town of Hope hooked up to Eastern Bartholomew Water after its water source was contaminated with nitrates. The people of Hawcreek Township don’t have that option. To hook up to Eastern Bartholomew there would have to be a main line in close proximity with additional funds for the meter and hookup to the home.

Even though Hawcreek is at poverty level, the residents value their property. For some, financial security is wrapped up in their property. After the CFO on County Road 800N was approved, improved property sales fell by 8 percent within the first year, according to the Bartholomew County Assessor’s Office. This does not speak to the dollar amounts lost during these sales. Hawcreek Township is being robbed of its natural resources and financial well-being.

It doesn’t make sense to have a cookie-cutter ordinance for this type of industry, especially when the ordinances aren’t being honored. It is more logical to take the siting of the CFO/CAFOs on an individual basis. Purdue’s odor-based setback model developed by Al Heber (engineering.purdue.edu/~odor/setback) would be conducive to siting the CFO/CAFOs in Bartholomew County. Purdue’s model is an assessment and mitigation of dust, odor and gas emissions from these confined life support facilities. Many counties utilize this model to help site these operations. This model would prohibit clustering, thereby avoiding economic injustice.

Please contact your county commissioners (812-379-1515) and let them know you are in favor of Purdue’s setback model that would site these operations on an individualized basis.