Sunday, December 18, 2011

Official Occupy Macomb, IL Letter Concerning South Morgan Acres CAFO

The letter below is the official Occupy Macomb, IL statement regarding the newly proposed concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). This letter will be presented to the county board on December 21, 2011 at the McDonough Co. courthouse. We will meet on the southeast end of the courthouse before 6:30 to greet the board members and voice our concerns. Feel free to use parts of this letter to help you construct your own!

December 17, 2011

From:    Occupy Macomb
To:          The County Board of McDonough County

Dear County Board Members,

                South Morgan Acres, a proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), operated in conjunction with Professional Swine Management (PSM), has been promoted as a job-creating operation for McDonough County that will produce high tax revenues.  These claims are dubious. Residents of McDonough County and Schuyler County, who have experience with other PSM operations, testified against the proposed new CAFO at the public hearing on December 5, 2011, which lasted for six hours. The proposed site introduces economic vulnerability to the tax payers of McDonough County; it also threatens to contaminate our water and our air. We ask you to recommend to the IDOA that PSM NOT be given a permit.
                During the hearing, road commissioners Bill Waller and Bill Callahan spoke out against the proposed South Morgan Acres CAFO. Waller, road commissioner for Raritan Township in Henderson County, "strongly opposed" building the CAFO on County Road 2300, north of Blandinsville. "Our roads aren't built for the heavy truck traffic and manure hauling equipment this facility would generate,” he said. “We're barely treading water to keep our heads up now.”
Callahan, road commissioner for Blandinsville Township in McDonough County, presented the projected costs for road maintenance. The estimated costs for the tax payers of Blandinsville Township to rebuild a one-half mile stretch of road would total approximately $48,362, though this figure could go up or down, depending on fuel costs and weather. Because South Morgan Acres would be eligible to receive a  tax reduction of up to 70 percent, local residents would likely end up paying more in taxes for infrastructure upkeep than South Morgan Acres.
Larry Fox, Stronghurst road commissioner for 22 years, spoke out concerning the problems presented by a CAFO in his township:"Over the past few years, seven new hog confinement buildings have been built. The road base is not heavy enough, nor is it wide enough, for heavy truck use all year 'round. It does not make the taxpayers along this road happy."               
                Many residents at the December 5 hearing raised concerns about water contamination and the ecological detriment to our community. PSM claimed that the proposed site is in an unpopulated area, but many present at the meeting insisted they live nearby. What constitutes “unpopulated” may be contested, but it is a fact that actual people live in the vicinity of the proposed South Morgan Acres facility. For them, South Morgan Acres poses an immediate ecological threat.
                According to the La Moine River Ecosystem Partnership website, the "river provides approximately 4.25 million gallons of water per day for public and industrial use, and it is the sixth largest tributary to the Illinois River" (2010). The river contains "numerous threatened and endangered species" including the "red-shouldered hawk, king rail, gray bat, Indiana bat, timber rattlesnake, and plant species such as decurrent false aster, blazing star and buffalo clover" (2010).
                At the hearing, PSM representatives stated the intention to be good neighbors to the citizens near the proposed CAFO site. Barbara Adams, a resident who lives 3280 feet away from it, says that the site is "located over the watershed of the La Moine River; if it is polluted, it could affect the water for miles downstream" (Steelman 2011). PSM claimed that the company would ensure the safety of the La Moine River; however, this concern for the ecological well-being of Illinois is more than questionable. The La Moine River flows in Hancock County, McDonough County, and Fulton County. PSM has been charged with water pollution violations in each of these counties.  These violations reveal a pattern of disregard for the welfare of those residing near its facilities and disrespect for the natural environment in which it operates.
                A PSM facility in Hancock County utilized underground waste storage pits. One of the cleanouts was mowed over and damaged (IPCB 2010). On September 18, 2008, "a manure stream approximately two feet wide and 200 yards long flowed out of the cleanout, down the field in a northeasterly direction along a drainage channel where it entered an unnamed tributary to Wildcat Creek" (IPCB 2010). On September 23, 2008 the Illinois EPA found that the "liquid was turbid, dark-colored and contained a strong swine waste odor. Sample analysis indicated the following parameter levels: ammonia, 1220 mg/l; TSS, 810 mg/l; fecal coliform, 16,000 per 100 ml" (IPCB). Downstream, there were "black bottom deposits" and the stream contained a swine waste odor. 
A PSM representative stated at the public hearing that the South Morgan Acres facility would also use underground storage pits.
                The argument we wish to make is not that South Morgan Acres is sure to contaminate us, but rather that PSM’s track record shows the company does not plan for catastrophes. The PSM engineer at the hearing asserted there was no need for a contingency plan, because PSM’s “Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan” ensured no risk of a technological disaster. It is clear from the nine counts of illegal treatment of the ecosystem outlined in PCB 2010-084 (IPCB 2010), and from the fact that PSM and one of its clients have already paid fines of $27,000 for environmental pollution violations in McDonough County, that PSM does not have sufficient contingency plans.
                PSM’s no-risk mentality is a threat to the ecological well-being of McDonough County, as well as Henderson County. This threat does not only concern environmental degradation, but also local economic sustainability and public health. Considering possible water contamination, air contamination, and high tax payer costs in Blandinsville Township, as outlined by Bill Callahan, as well as the endangerment of the general ecology, we urge you to recommend to the IDOA that PSM NOT be given a permit. In spite of PSM’s kind words, its track record indicates it will not be our “good neighbor.”

Vote NO,
Occupy Macomb

References Cited

Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB)
     2010 PCB 2010-084 Accessed on December 16, 2011

La Moine River Ecosystem Partnership
     2010 La Moine River Watershed Facts Accessed                 on December 16, 2011

Steelman, Lainie
     2011 Hog Confinement Controversy      confinement-controversy Accessed on December 16, 2011

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