March 11 Sierra Club Press Release:
Despite acknowledging in October that fresh water was scarce at Seaboard’s Greeley County hog feeding site, KDHE has approved a 50% expansion to as many as 396,000 hogs.* Seaboard’s Ladder Creek operation will be the second largest in the US and generate roughly twice as much waste as the city of Wichita. Last Fall KDHE allowed Seaboard to skip a permit requirement to fill their lagoons to a certain level with fresh water to reduce odor.
When the Sierra Club commented that KDHE should require Seaboard to show there is sufficient water to ensure proper operation of the waste treatment system, KDHE responded:
- “The Department is not required to verify that sufficient water is available at the subject site.”
- “Nothing in the statutes or regulations makes it incumbent upon the Department to ensure the permittee has access to enough water to properly operate the waste management system.”
- “It has not been determined that the amount of water is insufficient; only that it is scarce.”
KDHE also said Seaboard need not address a recent Kansas Geological Survey report noting that the aquifer at the site is “effectively exhausted.”
Sierra Club also objected that KDHE has not taken into account the odor generated by such a massive hog operation. After noting that anaerobic treatment lagoons are “acknowledged as causing fewer odor issues than a simple waste storage pond,” KDHE responded:
- “As Seaboard has met the separation distance requirements . . . , the Department does not require the use of anaerobic treatment lagoons.” (Note: the 5000-foot setback from residences is the same for 9400 hogs as for 400,000 hogs over 55 pounds.)
- “Seaboard is not required by the Department to include biological treatment.”
When the Sierra Club then cited the applicable state law wherein “…the secretary shall take into consideration different sizes of facilities and other relevant factors,” KDHE responded that the current rule “…does make a distinction between odor control for swine facilities below 1000 animal units and those with 1000 or more animal units.” (Note: Ladder Creek will have 158,400 animal units; one animal unit = 2.5 hogs).
KDHE did add a permit condition that better defines how the lagoon levels should be determined, but at the same time decreased the requirement.
“It’s abundantly clear that Kansas rulemaking never anticipated the kind of massive facilities that can be built by any big pork producer that so desires,” said Craig Volland, Chair of the Agriculture Committee of the Kansas Chapter. “The neighbors to these huge operations will surely suffer the consequences of obnoxious odor and, in some cases, dry wells.”
The Chapter is studying its options to further address this deficiency. The Sierra Club’s full comment and KDHE’s response may be accessed here.
For more info contact Craig Volland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-334-0556.
*grower pigs up to 70 lbs or 198,000 mature hogs