Hancock County residents raising alarm over proposed area hog confinement

Ken Hunerdosse stands next to his car Friday, Dec. 30, 2012, on a rural Burnside road. Hunnerdosse lives about 1.25 miles from a proposed hog confinement, and already has another hog confinement roughly the same distance away.
Posted: Jan. 2, 2012 10:22 am Updated: Jan. 16, 2012 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

CARTHAGE, Ill. -- Ken Hunerdosse is starting to feel surrounded.

There's a hog confinement already in place 1.25 miles from his home, another smaller operation nearby and now a third proposed 1.25 miles in another direction.

"Nobody wants one of these near their home," Hunerdosse said. "The problem is so many are going into this concentrated location."

Junction Acres LLC has proposed a 5,600-sow farm at a site 1.3 miles northwest of LaCrosse. Junction Acres hired Carthage-based Professional Swine Management to operate the facility that is expected to produce 2,500 pigs a week.

Hunerdosse is part of Save Our Rural Environment, a local citizens group that is sounding the alarm about the impact of the confined animal feeding operation on nearby wells, roads, air quality, property values, quality of life and the LaMoine River.

"We aren't environmentalists. We're just neighbors having a problem," Hunderdosse said. "I don't hold out a lot of hope that we're actually going to prevent it from happening, but we need to make the community aware of the hazards going in, especially to some of us."

He's been remodeling his farm house, but he's put off further work because of the proposed development. He worries about the water needs of large CAFOs and what they do to neighboring wells.

An existing hog confinement turned an occasional, drought-related slight sulfur smell to his well water into a year-round problem, he said.

"Sometimes the water is just black. We have to wash white clothes in town. We have no drinking water. My drinking water comes from my mother-in-law," he said.

Angela Markey, a neighbor of the proposed facility, said in a news release that "the poor track record of PSM and CAFOs in general causes serious concern for many of us in Hancock County."

Dr. Bill Hollis with PSM said company officials met with some area residents, took them on a tour of a hog confinement facility and offered the same opportunity to city, township and county officials.

"We're being as open as we believe we can be to help people understand," Hollis said. "We believe there's no reason for all that nervousness. We believe the questions of manure storage and groundwater (contamination) are easily answered."

Proponents and opponents of the proposed Junction Acres facility will have their say at a public informational meeting Wednesday night. Opponents submitted a petition with 89 signatures requesting the public meeting.

"I figured if we get that many people that at least (we ought) to have a hearing," Hancock County Board Chairman David Walker said.

After the meeting, the Hancock County Board has 30 business days to consider and develop a recommendation for the Illinois Department of Agriculture on the proposed facility. Walker expects the board to make its recommendation at its Jan. 17 meeting.

The Department of Agriculture then has 15 calendar days to rule.

The facility will have 18 to 20 full-time employees, Hollis said. Three producers from Illinois and Missouri will own the sows and sell the pigs to two producers in Minnesota.

"They're men we've worked with for several years who have a strong stake in the pig business and a strong desire to see a successful livestock industry," Hollis said. "We currently manage eight farm locations in Hancock County. All of them have a very sizable contribution to both the townships and the county."

With the proposed site northwest of LaCrosse, "you couldn't hardly pick a better location," Walker said.

He said a facility built in "another really good location" near Middle Creek, southeast of Carthage, pays $80,000 a year in property taxes.

"As bad as they're hurting these days for money to operate our school systems, that's a good thing," Walker said. "We're struggling getting enterprises and tax-producing things in our county, and we get something that provides $80,000 in revenue."

Walker said he's received only two phone calls from residents concerned primarily with odor from the facility.

"If the PSM people do things the way they can do them, the odor will be fairly well diminished, but there will still be some odor," Walker said. "One guy that's raising a lot of fuss about it built a new home north and east of where this will be put. That's the worst place. Most winds are out of the southwest. If you're northeast, that's a bad spot to be. I understand he's concerned. I would be, too, if I lived there."

Hollis addresses those concerns based partly on the facility's "ideal" location which features a large number of trees, good separation from homes and good access to cropland for manure application.

Design plans call for a concrete, in-ground sealed manure storage facility with rubber water stops in all concrete joints and perimeter tiles to prevent groundwater contamination. A sustained comprehensive nutrient management plan will include soil testing and manure sampling "to ensure that we're applying at agronomic rates, at a rate suitable for crops to uptake," Hollis said.

In addition, odor concerns can be exaggerated because "these are sow facilities, which by nature are not as high in nitrogen content in the diet and the manure is not as concentrated," Hollis said. "We also utilize both pit ventilation and wall ventilation continually circulating the air."

Hunerdosse just wants to hear more about the project.

"We don't have any information. That's really one of our concerns. We don't know what the plans really are," he said. "There's some concerns about them not living up to the standards they say they're doing."