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Friday, April 9th, 2010

Area farmer praised by governor under fire

By Nancy Allen
FORT RECOVERY - A Darke County hog and fish farmer recently showcased during a March 19 visit by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has a history of pollution and manure management issues, the most recent of which occurred just eight days before the governor's visit.
Don Brewer, whose farm is located on New Weston-Fort Loramie Road near Fort Recovery, received a letter this week from the chief of Ohio's Division of Soil and Water Resources telling him to correct his pollution problems or face the consequences.
Infractions listed in the chief's order include the March 11 incident when an Ohio Department of Agriculture inspector found a combination of fish water and manure from the farm entering the Wabash River. The letter also includes past incidents, which are: March 1, 1999, when manure from the farm entered the Wabash River; March 16, 2001, when a large amount of manure was found ponded on the outside of a waste storage pond on the property; and July 20, 2009, when a large amount of hog manure and wastewater used to raise tilapia fish entered the Wabash River.
Deadlines given to Brewer by the Darke County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to address the issues were all missed, the chief's letter notes. Brewer was asked to complete a manure management plan, do soil tests to determine his farmland's suitability for manure application, meet with Darke County SWCD officials and schedule a site visit.
Brewer reportedly told an SWCD official who came to the farm to investigate the March 16, 2001, incident that he was going to stop raising hogs. Two more pollution incidents involving hog manure from the farm occurred after that, the letter states.
If Brewer doesn't make the changes, the state may seek a court order compelling him to do so; order him to become a state-permitted facility, thus requiring stricter regulations and annual inspections; and/or seek criminal penalties, the chief's letter continues.
John Kaiser, district administrator of the Darke County SWCD, said his office has been trying to work with Brewer. Kaiser said cases are only referred to the chief when local efforts produce no changes.
"If somebody gets a chief's order, they're obviously not complying with the local SWCD's recommendations," Kaiser said. "We've had situations in the past with chiefs' orders, but most complaints are solved and stopped from reoccurring by the SWCD working with the individual."
The reoccurring issue at Brewer's farm is that the storage facility for hog manure and fish wastewater gets full and is pumped onto the ground at the farm, Kaiser said. The manure and fish water then flows north to a neighboring farm, percolates through the soil and into a tile that empties into the Wabash River.
Brewer this morning called the situation "unfortunate" and said he is working to fix the pollution problem.
"I'm working to resolve the issue with some people to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.
The governor was not aware of the findings against Brewer prior to his visit, but has subsequently become aware of the situation, said Amanda Wurst, Strickland's press secretary.
"The governor expects all of Ohio's farmers to follow the law, because nothing is more important than the safety of our food supply, land and water," Wurst said.
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