Supervisors okay CAFO despite concerns of safety of Jefferson city water supply

Supervisors trust DNR to protect water quality

water-question-mark(Edited Dec. 6, location of artesian well)

The Greene County supervisors recommended approval of a construction permit for a new hog CAFO in Hardin Township despite a possibility it could lead to contamination of Jefferson’s drinking water supply.

At a public hearing Monday on the permit for Ostrander Home Site, located in Section 21 of Hardin Township, Jefferson city engineer John Milligan was the first to speak.

Milligan told the supervisors the city has two wells within 1-1/2 miles directly south of the proposed CAFO. He explained that the well field that includes city wells #7 and #8 was developed in the 1970s. A draw down test (to determine the effect of the larger city wells on private wells in the area) and 10 years of monitoring by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources showed that the area where the proposed CAFO will be located is over the aquifer from which the wells draw water.

His concern is direct access to the aquifer through abandoned wells, both pump and artesian.

There are artesian wells near Hardin Creek, he said. While they’re flowing, there isn’t a threat to drinking water, “but if an artesian quits, all of a sudden you have a hole in the ground and direct access down to the aquifer. The manure management plan, if it’s applied directly over it, it’s certainly a danger to the drinking water, not only to the city, but to everybody in the neighborhood,” he said.

He asked the supervisors to have the DNR “look very strongly at protecting drinking water quality and have that as part of the site consideration.

“I understand the matrix and that your hands are somewhat tied, but maybe your recommendation for approval might be conditional,” Milligan said.

Milligan said he doesn’t know exact locations of old artesian wells, but he’s been told over the years of their existence. Chief deputy Jack Williams was at the hearing; he said he knows of one nearby. That well is no longer flowing but has not been capped.

The proposed CAFO will be on Ostrander family property. It will be owned by Justin Ostrander, a 2013 Greene County high school graduate. Jay Ostrander, Justin’s father, said there was an artesian well on the property included in the manure management plan. That well has been sealed. Throughout the public hearing, Jay Ostrander spoke and Justin Ostrander did not.

Milligan said abandoned wells at vacant farmsteads could also be a problem. He asked county sanitarian Chuck Wenthold if information is available showing the location of abandoned wells. Wenthold said many have been plugged, but he has no way of knowing if there are more.

“It’s not my intent to study the entire watershed, but there are concerns,” Milligan said.

About a dozen person attended the public hearing. Melissa Barrett, a nearby neighbor, noted that the area is “being over-run” by CAFOs and that the smell of dead hogs is worse than the smell of manure. Neighbor Kyle Allender said the smell of the existing CAFO is “absolutely horrid” and that he has “grave concerns” about water quality. Neighbor Francetta Stream sent a letter opposing the new CAFO. Leo Brooker, who lives west of the proposed CAFO, asked about trees at the site.

Kate Neese spoke on behalf of the Ostranders, saying their facilities are “pristine” and that the Ostranders have “a great operation.”

The master matrix for the site scored 455, with 440 needed for permitting. There were no points taken for landscaping, although Jay Ostrander said he would consider planting trees. There was also no closure plan provided, but there was an emergency response plan.

Near the end of the hearing supervisor Tom Contner said water quality is an “utmost concern” and board chair John Muir said he has concerns about “the quality of life.”

However, all five supervisors voted in favor of a motion recommending approval of the permit to the DNR, with letters concerning water quality and other public comments.

Wenthold said the DNR site reviewer planned to inspect the site later that morning.

According to Neese, “the DNR is under scrutiny. They will take everything into consideration, I believe.”

The supervisors justified their action. “We’re doing what we can. We need to everytime let them (the DNR) know that it’s not a perfect system. The Ostranders are doing it right. If there are rules that need to be changed, they need to be changed by the state,” Muir said.

“This one is a little more unique because of the aquifers. We need to bring it to their attention and ask them to be particularly cognizant of that. I think they will do that. I think that’s there charge as an organization. We need to stay on top of that and make sure they do,” supervisor Guy Richardson said.

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