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JFAN LTE: Officials Ignore Environmental, Health Concerns on CAFOs

JFAN published the following Letter to the Editor in the September 28, 2018 Fairfield Ledger commenting on the Jefferson County Supervisors meeting where our request to appeal the Bill Huber CAFO was denied.

To the Editor:

Jefferson County Supervisors chose to ignore environmental, health, and economic concerns of hundreds of constituents when they voted September 12 against appealing the preliminary construction permit granted to the Daniels Site. This 7,497-head factory farm owned by Bill Huber, a partner with Agri-Way Partners, will be built in the Lake Darling watershed, generating 2.3 million gallons of manure annually.

These supervisors initially dismissed the concerns of JFAN and residents attending the Master Matrix scoring session who pointed out weaknesses in the self-scored application and passed it with full points.

When no public hearing was held, 300 residents turned out for a meeting on Sept. 5, organized by Pleasant Plain Friends for Rural Preservation with JFAN to express concerns about the CAFO. PPFRP invited the supervisors to attend the meeting.

Supervisors Dick Reed and Lee Dimmitt weren’t there.

Supervisor Dee Sandquist was the only one to respond: she was out of state with family welcoming a new grandchild. All received copies of the comments submitted that night.

When a preliminary construction permit was issued on Sept. 10, the supervisors had 14 days to appeal the permit. Instead, Dimmitt attempted to fast-track the final permit for Huber by including for discussion a vaguely worded agenda item for their Monday board meeting. It was to consider waiving the right to appeal in order to hasten the issuance of the final construction permit by one week. The county attorney said the item lacked enough information to legally discuss.

At the urging of JFAN and other citizens, the supervisors held a meeting last Wednesday to consider an appeal. It was attended by 100 people, almost all opposed to the confinement. Sanquist proposed appealing based on the inadequacies of the narrow road that would service the confinement but was voted down by Dimmitt and Reed.

JFAN attempted to inform the supervisors about a conversation with Sierra Club attorney Wally Taylor where we learned they could appeal the permit on general environmental grounds. We tried to demonstrate the environmental threat to Lake Darling and show our supervisors maps that illustrated several fields receiving manure had tributaries that flowed into Honey Creek, a direct conduit into Lake Darling. We attempted to speak on the public health impacts on vulnerable populations – an elderly man and children - who would be exposed to toxic hydrogen sulfide and ammonia gases. We were rebuffed on all these points and told those were not legal grounds to appeal.

If these aren’t general environmental grounds, what are?

Jefferson County Supervisors voted against an appeal, and this week, Bill Huber received his permit to begin construction.

Less than 3 percent of Jefferson County residents own CAFOs. A new Duke University study found neighbors near CAFOs had considerable elevated health and death risks, yet another respected study to add to the 50-plus years of research. Plenty of legitimate concerns about the Daniels Site were voiced by hundreds of county residents. We can’t help but wonder who our supervisors really feel they should represent.

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