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Hog opponents voice concerns

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

A foul odor. That was the overwhelming consensus from neighbors regarding the expansion of a proposed hog operation by Gary and Warren Oberdiek of Farley.

Nearly 120 individuals attend a public meeting held Thursday night in Platte City to hear from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and to share thoughts and questions regarding the proposal.

The Oberdieks are proposing an addition of two multilevel buildings that could hold 1,100 pigs each. The manure and liquid waste would be composted with sawdust or other organic material in a system that dries the waste to reduce odor. The compost waste could then be placed on crop fields for fertilizer or sold.

Randy Clarkson, chief of engineering for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, was joined by 30th district representative Meg Harding, Senator Sydney Johnson and County Commissioners Betty Knight and Steve Wegner.

Clarkson explained that the public hearing was the best way to satisfy everyone in attendance. "The issues this department deals with are ones that people feel strongly about," stated Clarkson. "I think this position is the best way to get answers to most of your questions."

Clarkson clarified that the guidelines carried out by the MoDNR for such proposed buildings, are rules established by the state government.

"We look at the law that is established by the state and rules of the clean water commission. In the case of CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) over 1,000 units we make sure the facility can properly store the manure and we look at the rate the crops grow, as well as the nutrients in the manure.
"We're not authorized to deal with odor issues or the effects on property values. We are only authorized to deal with subsurface and surface waters."

Following Clarkson's opening remarks, he opened the floor up to questions from the public.

Concerns stemmed from odor issues to the possibility of pollution to property values. While the discussion touched on many issues and concerns, the overwhelming worry was the effect on the Missouri River and the neighbors' ground water.

One concerned citizen addressed the issue of the amount of nitrogens from the manure and the possible contamination of the ground water.

"Can you tell us you know exactly the amount of nitrogen and nutrients there will be for 2,500 pigs and can you assure us there won't be any ground pollution?"

Clarkson reverted back to data experts have studied regarding those amounts produced through the manure. "While it doesn't seem like a fun topic to research, there has been a lot of research done on the topic of manure. Technical experts know within certain ranges how much nutrients are produced in the manure," stated Clarkson.

Bob Kincaid, chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Platte County commented on the flood of 1993.

"At the time of the '93 flood I was on the Corp of Engineers. If this type of facility that is proposed now was constructed then, it would have polluted the Missouri River," stated Kincaid.

After comments from the audience challenged Clarkson on the category of flood plain, he commented that the proposed area is supposed to be in a 500-year flood plain. "The area is supposed to be considered a 500-year flood plain, but even if it's a 100-year flood plain that still meets the criteria set forth by the state."

The audience rallied together before moving on to the next concern. "If this proposed facility does pollute the Missouri River where will it go? To Parkville, Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas, our water supplies. Are you going to be around at that time to explain the situation if it does pollute the Missouri River?"

Clarkson assured the audience that the matter would be checked into before any final decision was reached.

Clarkson was once again cornered by the audience, when asked if he would move into Farley if the expansion is approved.

"I have personally lived near facilities that were much worse than I anticipate this place being," stated Clarkson. "So if you are asking me if I'd buy a house in Farley, I've actually dealt with it."

Stefania Liber of Camden Point, who fought a similar proposal near her home, came to voice her opposition to the proposed expansion.

"One family here is making a living off of hogs while the other families around them are losing there quality of life after dealing with the stench and decrease of property values," stated Liber. "What's fair about that?"

Clarkson, as well as neighbors of the Oberdiek farm, recently toured a similar facility in Ohio. Clarkson stated he was impressed with the facility's dry-handling system that will lessen the odor. The proposed Oberdiek expansion would use the same dry-handling system. Clarkson said that the agency hasn't yet found a legal reason to deny the permit. A decision on the permit is expected 45 days after the public hearing.