USA: "I'm surrounded by [dairy] crap"
- [EXCERPT: "I'm surrounded by crap," he said. ... His Jasper County
home is next to one of the fields the nine area dairies use to
dispose of the roughly 378,000 gallons of cow manure generated daily.
To hear him tell it, more than 100 tanker trucks the size of gasoline
haulers stopped on a single day to spread manure on the field. ..."I
called the EPA, and they told me it was perfectly legal," he said.
...Mishaps have happened with the manure. In September 2003, a
watchful resident drew attention to a manure spill at Jasper County's
Windy Ridge farm. IDEM officials said a bent discharge pipe allowed
manure to be pumped straight into Curtis Creek Ditch, affecting 15
miles of the creek.
More cows than people?
May 1, 2005
By Melissa Widner / Post-Tribune correspondent
More than 2,500 children paraded around Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure,
enjoying a free egg hunt on Easter weekend.
Neighbor Tom Turnpaugh could only growl.
"They make like it's the greatest thing in the world," said
Turnpaugh, stewing over the event at the year-old dairy tourist
center on a county road between Indiana 14 and Interstate 65.
The expanding dairy industry in Jasper and Newton counties has many
people happy - corn farmers with feed, auto dealers with new clients,
farm implement dealers.
Turnpaugh isn't one of them.
"I'm surrounded by crap," he said.
His Jasper County home is next to one of the fields the nine area
dairies use to dispose of the roughly 378,000 gallons of cow manure
generated daily. To hear him tell it, more than 100 tanker trucks the
size of gasoline haulers stopped on a single day to spread manure on
"I called the EPA, and they told me it was perfectly legal," he said.
"We're 200 feet away from this. We're worried our land value is going
to be worthless, and we're never going to be able to go anywhere. And
they've got the governor praising them."
Farming has always been the top industry in Jasper and Newton
counties, just south of the Kankakee River in Northwest Indiana. But
for some, dairy farming has been an unwelcome neighbor - at least
this kind of dairy farming.
Newton County will soon have more cows than people, if a pending
6,000-plus cow farm is approved.
It awaits IDEM approval, and construction could begin this summer.
Since 1999, nine dairies have started in a tight area straddling the
two counties. With capacity for more than 3,000 cows per farm, each
site is 40 times larger than the state's average dairy herd size in
2003. The counties have become home to the state's highest population
of dairy cows.
It's hard to go to a public gathering in either county and not have
"those dairies" come up, mostly by residents wanting assurances the
farms aren't affecting their quality of life.
The farmers are conscious of their neighbors' concerns. As complaints
arise, the farmers try new technology to lessen complaints.
"No one told us we had to put in a (methane) digester," said Mike
McCloskey, owner of the Fair Oaks Dairy Farms in Newton, which also
hosts the tourism center.
Because of neighbor complaints of flies and odors, three farms
installed cutting-edge methane digesters, valued at around $2 million
each. The digesters turn the manure into methane gas, which generates
a small amount of electricity and produces a solid waste product
similar to commercial mulch.
The farms also hired an entomologist from Purdue University to
control fly breeding.
In April, all manure spread by the farms on Newton County fields is
injected into the soil by machinery rather than lying on top of the
field, like the one next to Turnpaugh. The step cuts odor and
minimizes the chance the manure could run off into a ditch in a rain.
"It's because of the community and our neighbors and us working
together that we continue to run our business at the level of
excellence we do," McCloskey said.
All of the steps are neighborly gestures, the farmers point out.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which regulates
the state's larger confined and concentrated animal farms, does not
regulate odor or pests, and considers the dairies in good standing.
According to Bonnie Nash, an IDEM spokeswoman, the large dairies do
have unique restrictions because of the soil type and the aquifer.
They are required to do ground water and surface water testing in the
surrounding ditches on their site. Like all large animal operations,
the farms are also required to provide testing of the nitrogen,
phosphorous and potassium contents of the manure.
Some neighbors, like the group of six friends who gathered to talk
about their worries, say IDEM assurances are not enough.
They say the public should have more access to records, which now are
either on file in Indianapolis or in a regional field office in
Merrillville, or more frequently kept with the farmers themselves.
Gus Nyberg, a Lake Village resident who says he can smell the farms
some days from his home, said he would like to see the state use a
resource like Purdue University to study the impact of the farms on
The friends are not alone in their concerns.
Carla Orlandi, director of the Newton County Soil and Water District,
has been increasingly worried about the impact of the farms,
especially given the sandy soil that makes up most of the northern
half of the two counties.
"We're all drinking this water," said Orlandi, who preaches
residential well testing to the roughly 65 percent of Newton County
residents with private wells. In the northern half of the county,
almost all residents are in a sand and gravel aquifer with well
depths of less than 50 feet.
"This aquifer is like a giant sponge," she said. "I worry about what
is moving in the water."
Mishaps have happened with the manure.
In September 2003, a watchful resident drew attention to a manure
spill at Jasper County's Windy Ridge farm. IDEM officials said a bent
discharge pipe allowed manure to be pumped straight into Curtis Creek
Ditch, affecting 15 miles of the creek.
IDEM's ruling was that the spill was unattractive and caused algae
growth, but did not affect water quality. A year later, the farm was
fined $13,300 for the spill.
In February 2001, IDEM inspectors discovered a spill at a Newton
County dairy. The farm was fined $6,000.
The farmers say those actions are proof there is sufficient oversight.
"That's IDEM's job - to regulate us," McCloskey said. "We do exactly
what they say."
McCloskey points to failed septic systems at the State Road 114 and
Interstate 65 interchange as the largest source of E. coli and other
water contamination in the creek.
"If you take samples out of the stream at its birth and as it leaves
my farm, the water that leaves my farm is clean," McCloskey said.
"People can make generalizations about Midwest farm runoff. I have
documentation that I am not one of those people."
The farms are a cash cow for locals.
In addition to growth in the business and farm communities, each
county receives around $500,000 in property taxes collectively from
the farms each year.
"These farms have opened up a lot of doors for agriculture in Jasper
County," said John Korniak, president of the Jasper County Plan
Commission. "They buy acres and acres of silage from local farmers
each year. They buy from machinery dealers, the auto parts stores.
They are a large part of the local community."
Newton County Commissioner Jim Pistello, a Lake Village businessman,
said by working with the farms, the county has been able to win
concessions for safety measures not required by IDEM.
"This guy's a farmer and they're in an agricultural area. If we went
to court, they would win. Then they would walk out of court and say,
'I'm going to do what IDEM requires and nothing more.' "
At the county level, officials say their hands are tied to accept the
farms, as long as they meet the state and local zoning requirements.
Attempts to control the farms at the local level have been discussed
since the farms arrived, always in response to residents' concerns.
Both counties are working on local ordinances to address concerns
about the farms and other concentrated animal feeding operations of
Korniak, the operator of a 1,500-head hog farm in southern Jasper
County, said he thinks larger farms will be the future of farming.
"Farm ground is getting ate up. Drive to Indy or Chicago, or even
Valpo. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of farm ground each
year put into apartments or condos. Sooner or later, we are going to
have to really start saving farm ground."
Pistello said he believes the farms can be a good addition to the
region, as long as a positive dialogue remains and as long as
technology helps alleviate the problems as they develop.
"Those digesters, I think, really are the key," Pistello said.
Turnpaugh said he thinks Jasper County doesn't care about the
concerns of homeowners like himself.
"When the Newberry dairy was put in, for four solid hours people
walked up and said they did not want this. When they were done, the
board said, 'Anybody else?'
"Bam. Passed. They didn't even go out to talk about it. So, do they
care what anybody thinks? You're falling on a deaf ear."