State Line Farms closing two barns 7.16

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

When a representative from the Michigan Department of Agriculture visited State Line Farms in 2004, she told a group of concerned citizens that problems with odors might eventually be referred to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

That’s what happened a year later. Now, after a series of violation letters and efforts by the farm owner to alleviate the smell, two large hog barns will be emptied by Nov. 9 and closed down.

state.line.farm.jpg It’s an unusual situation, said Robert McCann, a spokesperson for the DEQ.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” McCann said about his agency’s involvement. “Under the Right to Farm law, the DEQ can go for air quality action only if the Michigan Department of Agriculture refers it, if they think it’s significant enough.”

After trying to alleviate odors with filters and mechanical devices, farm owner Gary Gallup made the decision to close the pair of 2,000-head barns. Under a consent order from the state attorney general office, both parties agreed to depopulate the barns and face financial penalties of up to $2,000 a day for additional violations.

The farm will also pay a $28,000 settlement fee that goes into the state’s general fund.

Gallup said that he didn’t want to comment on the situation, but McCann noted that the barns could be used again if air quality standards were met.

However, he added, it’s obvious that steps taken to reduce odors were ineffective and another solution would have to be found.

“We hear a lot of complaints about farm odors,” McCann said, “but by law we can’t do anything about it unless the MDA refers it to us.”

There’s a reason this referral was made—one that was obvious to residents living nearby when the barns were constructed in 2003.

Because the location of the barns didn’t adhere to the MDA’s Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs), protection from the Right to Farm law was lost.

According to the GAAMPs—a set of voluntary guidelines—the large capacity structures should have been built at least half a mile from non-farm residences and 600 feet back from the property line.

Instead, they were constructed near Ridgeville Road, just east of M-156, and about 100 yards from the nearest residence. Three other homes are in the vicinity of the barns.

Once the barns were put into use, neighbors began lodging complaints about strong odors. MDA representatives responded to complaints, but found no odor violation.

In July 2005, the case was referred to the DEQ under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies regarding air quality issues.

The DEQ verified several violations over the next five months and sent a letter of violation in December.

By then, trees had been planted around the facility and biofilters had been installed. A visit in August 2005 found the filters dry and inoperable.

Complaints continued into 2006 and farmer owners submitted a compliance plan that included additional devices to reduce odor.

Additional violation letters were sent in 2007 and enforcement action was initiated. Eight odor control technology units were installed at the farm in October, but according to the DEQ staff activity report, the units “have not been as successful as hoped and, therefore, State Line Farms has chosen to remove all livestock from the barns by a shutdown date of Nov. 9, 2008.”

Both parties agreed to the terms of the consent order last month.

A customary 30-day comment period on the settlement ends Aug. 6. Comments should be sent to Autumn Lawson, Air Quality Division, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, MI 48909.

Documents relating to the case are available at the DEQ website (www.michigan.gov/deqair).

The farm’s other four barns—each with a capacity of up to 1,000 pigs—conform to GAAMP siting principles and are not part of the settlement.

Weaned pigs are brought to the barns and raised to a finishing weight of about 250 pounds. They are then shipped to market and the process is repeated. Among the six barns, approximately 16,000 hogs are raised each year.

  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017