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E-M:/ Report on CAFO hearing, Part 3 of 3

(Please refer to Part 1 for background)



Industry testimony:

-          Scott Piggott of the Farm Bureau said they don’t think this new permit is needed.  They support the original permit that included a voluntary compliance program under MAEAP, saying this just adds paperwork.  They oppose submitting CNMPs to the DEQ and allowing public access, oppose allowing public hearings on the applications for permit coverage under the general permit, consider the requirements for disclosing land application areas and manifest system for transfer of wastes to others unduly burdensome.  They think this permit would discourage the use of natural fertilizers, provide unreasonable restrictions on application due to weather predictions which may not be accurate, and complained that in four years time the state has already adopted two permits and now is looking to put in a third.  Scott claimed this will put the state in a regulatory disadvantage.

-          Harley Sietsma who owns numerous hog and turkey industrial livestock operations opposes any permitting system, claiming more can be accomplished under the voluntary programs in place.  He said if you visit an operation that us under Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program you’ll find environmental compliance is top notch.  If the DEQ intends to “impose” this permit, Sietsma said, then some problems must be addressed.  The requirement for a manifest for transferring wastes to people who will land apply the waste is a much stricter requirement than for other types of fertilizer providers, and he said the customers say if they must sign a manifest they won’t buy the waste.  Sietsma “put the state on notice” that if this provision affects their business he will hold the state accountable. Inspection of storage structures, especially for those built before new NRCS standards that would be required in the permit, won’t be met, and will make Michigan operations non-competitive.  He said this will put hundreds of swine facilities in Michigan out of business. Allowing the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan to be made available to the public would lead to vigilantism and harassment.  Weather limitations would cause problems with spreading wastes, and he said that the courts have held that these operations are exempt as agricultural run-off if incorporated in keeping with best management practices.  Lastly, he called for eliminating the term “CAFO waste” from the permit.  He said it is valuable material and DEQ should “take off their dark shaded glasses” and help the operators address their problems.

-          Bob Dykhuis, who owns several CAFOs, noted he is involved in a watershed cleanup group.  Noted that it is illegal to discharge into streams, and if illegal activities are occurring there is clear authority to enforce it already.  He objected to lumping industrial livestock operations in pollution categories with other industries, when there are problems with septage and sewage as well and there is a need to deal with each of these.  He raised concerns about the requirements to meet for existing storage facilities, and who determines whether that standard is met?  Bob objected to the requirement for setbacks from grassed waterways (engineered filter strips) saying that these are for removing contaminants so if not allowed it seems like it makes more sense to tear them out.  He claimed is they inject wastes, then the rainfall requirements are not a concern because the waste won’t run off.  There was a concern about problems caused by separate CNMPs that prevent the optimum use of fields.  The six month storage requirement was a good goal, he said, but difficult to achieve, and he supports cleaning up waterways and says we all need to work together.

-          Harold Walcott, a turkey producer, said that he thinks the turkey industry is doing a good job of disposal of their wastes through composting, using organically based bedding materials (wood shavings) that hold waste better than others.  He views the proposed permit as discriminatory because he thinks it would hold the customers for his waste to a higher standard that those who buy chemical fertilizers.



-           I also spoke and focused on responding to the comments from the industry reps.  I noted that the DEQ was forced to begin to regulate industrial livestock operations in 2003 as a result of an effort by Sierra Club, MEC and MLUI to bring compliance, so the multiple permits since then is not really a surprise, especially since the DEQ is trying to figure out how to make up for ten years of dismantling the law that occurred under the Engler administration.  Comparisons of industrial livestock wastes to human septage and sewage wastes don’t account for the fact that those wastes are in fact regulated under the NPDES program and we are seeking the same kinds of regulations for these wastes.  The “putting the state on notice” comment raises a question of whether the industrial livestock operators will be held accountable for all the damage that has been done to the health and well-being of the people and communities of Michigan.  Complaints about having to meet standards such as that for the waste storage should be put into the context of the fact that if the state had kept on track with regulations following the efforts to control industrial livestock operations in the 1980’s all of these standards would have and should have gone into place over time.  The state is playing catch up from the gutting of regulations during the 1990s. It is also critical to think about this issue not just from the standpoint of trying to figure out how industrial livestock operations can handle the waste they produce, but to also consider alternative types of livestock raising, such as rotational grazing, that avoid the pollution and health problems these facilities cause.



There was much thanks to the DEQ for holding the hearing during the comment period for the permit -- the DEQ comment period continues to September 16th.  The proposed permit and where to send your comments is available at:  http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135-3313_3682_3713-10463--,00.html -- scroll down to permit MIG020000.  Sierra Club would also love to see any comments submitted -- please send them to me at anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org.


Thanks to ALL who showed up at the hearing, whether they testified or not!  Also, if there are any corrections to these summaries please let me know. 


Anne Woiwode, State Director

Sierra Club Mackinac (Michigan) Chapter

109 E. Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906

517-484-2372   fax 517-484-3108

Enjoy, Explore and Protect -  www.michigan.sierraclub.org