[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Orleans and Hartford residents team up to oppose Liberty Dairy CAFO



Last night at a DEQ hearing on the proposed individual CAFO NPDES permit for the Liberty Dairy in Orleans, Ionia County proposed by Timothy den Dulk and associates, 100 people listened intently as their neighbors and two neighbors of the Hartford Dairy CAFO, built by the applicants in Van Buren County last year, provided exceptionally well researched and argued comments in opposition to the proposal.  Of the 12 who testified, 9 provided substantive testimony about the severely flawed permit, 1 testified in favor of the facility, and 2 who spoke at the end stated that they had not made up their minds about this before coming, but after listening to the extensive documentation they had learned a great deal.   I have to say it was one of the most impressive compilation of reasons for the DEQ to deny a permit that I have ever seen.  Among the facts raised (and if I get these wrong, its because I was scribbling and don’t have their written comments):


-          All the wells in the village of Orleans, which is right next to the proposed site, are very shallow, less than 50’ deep, and quite a few just a few feet deep

-          There is no water consumption projection, and previous irrigation projects in the area have sucked wells dry

-          The well head protection plan for the city of Ionia, just released this month, shows that the city’s drinking water is coming from an aquifer that is just one mile from this site and that there is a “very high source susceptibility” for this essential water source for the city

-          The den Dulk application claims they have secured sufficient acreage to handle 97% of the wastes produced by the operation sustainably, a claim challenged several ways:

o        Not all the land identified has been secured with contracts, so should not be counted

o        Many of the acres involved have tested out at levels of phosphates and nitrates that should exclude them from CAFO waste disposal – specifically the Liberty Dairy supposedly owns 1,500 acres for waste disposal, but only 400 acres are currently usable

o        According to literature on how much land would be needed for waste disposal for a “sustainable” operation, the amount den Dulk proposes is one-third what would be needed

-          The application includes a large amount of information that is just flat wrong, or inconsistent within the application itself or with other sources of information.  Among those inconsistencies are:

o        Wrong 24 hour/25 year rainfall number

o        Setbacks differing by 400’ in different documents

o        Failure to list all neighbors

o        Moving calf hutches

o        Differing numbers of acres owned by the facility for spreading

o        Executive Summary requires extensive information about where waste will be spread and in what quantities, which is not included

o        A complete CNMP was submitted in June 2004 to the MDA, but the application says the CNMP will not be completed until the fall of 2005

o        Significant amounts of information in the 6/04 CNMP conflicts with the information in the application

o        Claim that the facility has received “approval” by MDA for the location of the site under the Site Selection GAAMPs is not true – a draft letter has been issued, but approval will not be given until the facility is actually constructed.  This also means that the siting GAAMPs are totally bogus because they were intended to assure that CAFOs receive prior approval before construction to eliminate conflicts with neighbors

-          The den Dulk’s propose to use grassy waterways to clean manure laden wastes from waste running off the calf hutch area directly into fields, but that won’t work in winter and these are not intended to provide that kind of treatment

-          The site is almost certainly in violation of the siting GAAMPS, being located within the same section as the village of Orleans with a large number of residences near the facility

-          Not all of the receiving waters for this facility are identified in the application, as is required

-          Groundwater protection is entirely ignored

-          The Anti-degradation statement attached to the application makes unsubstantiated claims about creating new jobs, no impact on property values, increasing consumption of local goods, etc. 

-          The track record of other den Dulk facilities has been bad including

o        Clean Water Act violations at the Hartford Dairy CAFO within 2.5 months of starting up

o        Dead cow disposal at the Greenville facility amounted to dragging dead cows behind trees on the property, with no evidence of intention to address this

o        Horrible fly problems at Hartford are interfering with local businesses, which are considering leaving the area because of the problems

-          The proposed permit, like those for Z-Star Dairy CAFO in Huron County, Hartford Dairy CAFO in Van Buren County and the General Permit for the state, violate the Clean Water Act in a variety of ways, most specifically by not requiring that the CNMP be included and made available to the public.


The one supporter of the proposal recited the claims made by the applicant about being good neighbors, adding to the economy, etc.


Of the two who learned a lot at the meeting, one said his neighbors had clearly done their homework, that DEQ should take a very long look at this, and that “I am a farmer, been here all my life, and I want to be able to face these people with a good straight face.”  The second said this hearing had been somewhat of a “come to Jesus” experience on this issue, and he was going to have to go home and think long and hard about this whole proposal.


A Grand Rapids Press article at http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1109173613179740.xml  was short, but unfortunately again the DEQ official stated that despite all the severe problems identified, that he didn’t expect them to turn down the application.  I have to say, it sure makes it sound like the DEQ has no intention of EVER rejecting a CAFO permit, if this one is not turned down!!


Anne Woiwode




Anne Woiwode, Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter

109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372, fax 517-484-3108  www.michigan.sierraclub.org