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.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
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    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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