The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Vreba-Hoff: New lagoon built as existing structures fill

Written by David Green.


Construction began last week on a manure storage lagoon for the Vreba-Hoff dairy farms as existing lagoons reach full capacity. The new structure is located about two miles east of the company’s Dillon Highway farm.

Construction equipment was moved onto the site before Christmas to begin excavation of the 12 million gallon, clay-lined lagoon, located off Packard Road, about half a mile west of Bothwell Highway.

Transporting manure to the site by tanker truck will require travel along Dillon and Packard—both unimproved roads.

Vreba-Hoff spokesperson Cecelia Conway said the additional capacity is needed due to maintenance problems with the new press treatment system and wet fall weather following the corn harvest.

In addition, she said, creating a satellite lagoon will place manure closer to fields whevreba-pit re the nutrients are applied, leading to a more efficient operation.

Dairy co-owner Stephen VanderHoff met Dec. 11 with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) after the company received a noncompliance letter from the DEQ and the state attorney general’s office citing several problems at the dairy, including a backlog of manure.

The letter stated the existing lagoons were over-full and in violation of freeboard requirements—the allowed distance from the manure to the top of the lagoon wall.

After a copy of the letter was obtained by the Toledo Blade, an article quoted a statement from the attorney general’s office stating “your management of the CAFO waste generated at your two dairies has deteriorated seriously over the last several months.”

Nicole Zacharda of the DEQ’s water bureau enforcement unit said her agency learned about the new lagoon by second-hand reports.

“We know there’s some construction taking place, but we have no involvement in that,” she said Friday.

Zacharda said there are a number of corrective actions possible, but no course of action was decided between the two parties.

“There’s been no approval of anything they suggested on our part.”

Zacharda said Vreba-Hoff obtained a local soil erosion control permit for construction.

The DEQ’s Rachel Matthews said there are specifications to follow for a manure storage structure. Construction details would be reviewed by the agency before the new lagoon is put into service.

Conway expects to have the lagoon in use by the end of next week.

Treatment system

Vreba-Hoff invested a million dollars in a new press treatment system to remove most of the liquid from manure. Compost was to be made from the solid material in an effort to end the application of liquid manure on farm land.

Problems with the system have contributed to the backlog of manure. The noncompliance letter cites “apparent problems with the press treatment system.”

In October, the DEQ documented that the system was not in operation during numerous inspections and noted, “...based on your estimate of production, you should be running the system no less than 12 hours a day, 365 days a year in order to treat all manure currently being produced annually.”

When the system was opened for public viewing in late July, Stephen VanderHoff said the system would require 24-hour attention as he intended to run manure produced daily through the system as well as add manure already stored in storage structures.

“It’s not living up to anyone’s expectations of its treatment capabilities,” Zacharda said.

Conway described the system as very complex and still in the fine-tuning stage. Enhancements to the system are planned, including the installation of a sand removal device.

Sand is used as bedding for cattle, but interferes with the press system. She said they’re looking into a cleaning device that would allow recycling of the sand bedding.

“The technology is always advancing,” she said.

In addition to problems with the treatment system, Vreba-Hoff was cited for violations including failure to inspect tile lines, lack of monthly progress reports, lack of maintenance, failure to meet deadlines in implementing storm water management practices, and a discharge into Covell Drain, a tributary of Bean Creek.

Following field application of manure Nov. 25, testing indicated E. coli bacteria levels exceeding state standards by six times.

The two Vreba-Hoff dairies are under a December 2004 consent order from the attorney general’s office due to numerous problems in the past. An agreement was reached in January 2005 that led to the installation of the press treatment system.

Conway said the dairy’s expansion plans will be delayed until manure processing is back on track, but she’s still anticipates growth.

The dairy applied to the Michigan Department of Agriculture for an increase in the herd size that would raise the number of cows at Vreba-Hoff I to 3,200 head, the same size as the company’s Vreba-Hoff II site on U.S. 127, Conway said.

   - Jan. 4, 2007


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