BRYAN — The news that four concentrated animal feeding operations, better known by the acronym of CAFO, are being proposed in northwest Ohio could be considered a sign of the expansion of the agriculture industry. But for some, concerns for water and air quality outweigh that news.

All four of the proposed CAFO are in the western Lake Erie watershed. They are: Brown Swine Farm, near Bryan in Williams County Road 16 in Williams County’s Pulaski Township; Lamar Swine Farms, LLC, a dual-barn facility, both near Delphos in Van Wert County’s Washington and Jennings townships; Profit Family Pork, a dual-barn facility near Van Wert in Van Wert County’s York Township; and Planson Pork, LLC, near Stryker in Williams County’s Springfield Township.

Two are in the Auglaize River watershed and two are in the Tiffin River watershed. Both flow into the Maumee River, which is the largest western Lake Erie tributary.

Each one of the proposed buildings would have the capacity to house 4,800 swine. Those buildings would have pits with a capacity to store from 1.8 million gallons to 2.2 million gallons of liquid manure. Applications also have indicated the possibility of a “mortality compost structure.” If the farms receive approval, both the manure and composted mortality material would be applied as an alternative to commercial fertilizers.

Required public meetings are being held on the applications. A recent meeting held in Bryan on the Brown Swine Farm drew 70 in attendance with 13 speakers who were against the proposed operation. Local and owners, as well as representatives from Lake Erie Waterkeeper and Advocates for Clean Lake Erie, were in attendance. The main complaints and concerns expressed were the potential odor, regulations for the manure being spread on farmland, and the impact on water quality from agricultural run-off

The Ohio Department of Agriculture Environmental Permitting will evaluate the comments from the public meetings before any permits are issued.

Both the ODA and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) websites have information on the growing trend of the livestock production industry to consolidate smaller livestock operations into fewer but larger operations, and the regulations and requirements for those operations.

The Ohio EPA website indicates that the potential for water quality impacts from pollutant discharges at such facilities has led to changes in regulations and permitting programs to better protect waterways and drinking water supplies in Ohio and across the country. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and Ohio EPA have updated the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations and requirements for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to control spills and runoff of nutrients and other pollutants from these operations.

The ODA also has rules that regulate the release of phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients. The ODA’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting administers a permit program for Ohio’s largest confined livestock operations and also certification for the livestock manager. Ohio Revised Code Chapter 903 and Ohio Administrative Code 901:10 contain the program’s legal provisions.

The ODA can administrator fines of up to $10,000 for violations.

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