On Monday, Dec. 12, I attended the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) public informational meeting at Zumbrota City Hall. Fellow Zumbrota Township neighbors packed the conference room to show that we have serious concerns about a factory hog farm threatening to move into our neighborhood. We called on the MPCA to do a thorough and accurate environmental review for this proposed project and develop a transparent decision-making process. We left the meeting frustrated, feeling that the MPCA was simply checking boxes to complete their approval process without real concern for the environment nor the health and welfare of area residents.
The proposed factory farm is a 4,700-hog feedlot with a 3.7 million-gallon liquid manure pit, proposed by Mike Kohlnhofer. The Kohlnhofer family operates an insurance agency in Lakeville, Minn., as well as six other factory farms in Minnesota and others outside of the state. This proposal would be more than three times larger than any feedlot currently in Zumbrota Township. We know that this proposal will threaten our water, pollute our air, and displace local family farms.
That’s why we were shocked to see that the MPCA’s environmental review for this proposal was inaccurate and incomplete. Remarkably, basic information, such as locations of our homes that was readily available through a Google search, was missing in the environmental review. Also missing were 13 wells which we rely on for drinking water. Information that should have been triple-checked seems to not have been checked at all.
We’ve been providing the MPCA with basic information they should have known from the beginning. We’ve asked them to start the environmental review over and do it right. So far, they’ve refused.
During the public informational meeting, two of my neighbors and I presented our concerns to the packed room. We presented four issues that the MPCA should address:
• A new thorough environmental review for the proposal must be done.
• The decision on whether do an Environmental Impact Statement should be made at a public hearing at which citizens are allowed to testify.
• The public comment period for the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit ran concurrently with the public comment period for the original environmental review. The comment period for the permit needs to be done after the environmental review is complete.
• Information about the NPDES permit, which should be readily available to the public, has been difficult to obtain and the MPCA is still not forthcoming about making it available after copies of it were requested two months ago.
Read the complete statement (with background information) from Zumbrota Township residents on the proposed factory hog farm here.
We are expecting the MPCA to change course, publishing an accurate environmental review and respecting citizen input. It is the MPCA’s responsibility to represent the citizens they serve. This is our livelihood that is in jeopardy.