State wins case against Vreba-Hoff 10.27

Written by David Green.

Operators of the two Vreba-Hoff dairies northwest of Morenci have long maintained that the liquid manure they use to irrigate fields is diluted sufficiently for safe application.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) faults the dairies for failing to meet the treatment standards established in the farms’ National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

An NPDES permit is issued to regulate the discharge of pollutants into surface waters. In Vreba-Hoff’s case, the permit requires the treatment of liquid manure to meet concentration-based limits, imposed in 2007 as part of a modification of a previous court order.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge James Giddings last week ordered Vreba-Hoff to cease irrigation of wastewater that fails to meet permitted standards. In addition, the dairies were ordered to maintain compliance with all storage capacity requirements of the permit.

In September 2010, Giddings found there was no factual dispute that Vreba-Hoff continued to violate the permit limits as alleged by the DNRE in its lawsuit against the dairies, and he found that Vreba-Hoff had no plan to correct the violations.

An order in favor of the DNRE was granted then, but the parties were granted additional time to negotiate a remedy. Giddings agreed last week that negotiations failed to result in a solution.

The DNRE lawsuit charged that Vreba-Hoff irrigated fields in 2008 and 2009 with wastewater that failed to reach permitted levels, and continued to “unlawfully irrigate” this year after the DNRE’s lawsuit was filed in December 2009.

Earlier this month, the Circuit Court approved a $580,000 lien against the dairies on behalf of the DNRE to cover unpaid penalties and financial assurance.

Vreba-Hoff also faces foreclosure action from a mortgage company on $55 million in loans.

  • 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.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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