By Nancy Allen
The road has been cleared for a group of farmers to construct a mega farm near North Star.
A Darke County couple had appealed the expansion of the poultry farm in their neighborhood to 1.28 million laying hens. That appeal was denied recently by the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC).
Pam and Ron Broering, 5427 North Star-Fort Loramie Road, North Star, wanted to reverse the Ohio Department of Agriculture's decision to grant the necessary permits for the farm to operate. Pam Broering this morning said she disagrees with ERAC's decision to deny the appeal and urged state legislators to get involved.
The mega farm on Ross Medford Road is owned by Brian and Kevin Winner of Rossburg, Ralph, Chris and Randy Rindler of St. Henry and Kasey and Ronald Schwieterman of Fort Recovery. It currently has one barn capable of holding 183,000 chickens.
ERAC's decision clears the way for the owners to construct four more barns each capable of housing 288,000 hens, a covered manure storage building and an egg wash pond that can store 2 million gallons of a mixture of water, detergent from the washing process and a small amount of manure. The farmers, in conjunction with Fort Recovery Equity Egg Processors, also plan to build a 30,000-square-foot egg processing facility on the land.
Kasey Schwieterman this morning said he was satisfied with the outcome of the hearing. He confirmed that construction of the new facilities already has begun.
According to an ERAC hearing on Feb. 7, the Broerings' appeal centered on their contention that the ODA should have denied the farm's permits because the application contained false or misleading information, such as a site map that did not property delineate the number of residences within 2,000 feet of the proposed egg wash pond. They also claimed the aeration technology proposed to control odor in the egg wash lagoon does not constitute proven technology since it has never been used at a farm in Ohio, and that the final permits on file with the Darke County Soil and Water Conservation District office did not contain a copy of the site map.
The Broerings also questioned the propriety of revising the technology to be used, which was not done until after a public meeting on the permit application. About 80 people attended that public meeting on May 20, 2004, to voice concerns about odor, insects and their overall opposition to the poultry farm expansion. Just one person spoke in favor of the megafarm.
At the ERAC hearing on Feb. 7, Ross Medford farm owners offered depositions from three employees of Nutrient Control Systems in Chaska, Minn., which manufactures aeration equipment used to treat industrial, municipal and agricultural wastewater. The company also makes the aeration equipment Ross Medford owners intend to use. The Nutrient Control officials testified the equipment was very effective in eliminating odors, constituted proven technology and had been used for more than 30 years.
The Broerings provided no testimony to the contrary that the aerators were not proven technology, according to the hearing report.
The commission disagreed that Ross Medford owners' permit application contained false or misleading information. While the commission agreed the applications originally submitted by the farmers failed to contain all the required information, the final application was accurate and complete, the hearing report says. The commission further found that an appropriate site map showing a total of seven residences located within 2,000 feet of the egg wash pond was properly submitted prior to the issuance of the permits, and therefore, did not contain misleading or false information.
The commission found there is no requirement that the Darke County SWCD office must maintain a complete copy of the permits, as the Broerings had said, or that there needed to be public notice after the aeration technology was revised.
Pam Broering this morning said state legislators should rework ODA rules used to site mega farms.
"It's a shame because Ross Medford is the first who asked to go around the rules, and I think it's just going to continue," she said.
Darke County will receive a total of $371,400 in grant funds from the Ohio Department of Development to widen and upgrade Ross Medford Road between McFeeley-Petry Road and state Route 705 and to help purchase equipment for the expansion.