Department of Agriculture approves factory hog farm in Livingston County

Staff Report

SAUNEMIN, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has approved the construction of the Harms-Kevin House factory hog farm proposal near the town of Saunemin, Ill., in Livingston County.

The approval was issued by IDOA despite concerns raised by the Livingston County Board, which recommended denial of the application because of concerns about its impacts to the area’s water resources.

Nov. 30, the IDOA sent a letter to Patrick Harms stating that construction of his 4,500-head hog facility could proceed. The IDOA’s approval of the project ignored a Sept. 15, 2011, resolution enacted by the Livingston County Board, which recommended the denial of the application because it did not meet the criteria set forth in the Livestock Management Facilities Act. In addition, the county requested hydrology studies of the area be conducted to identify and protect their water resources.

The IDOA approved construction of the facility without requiring a hydrology study of the area. According to documents obtained from the IDOA under the Freedom of Information Act, the only water study undertaken was a well-pump test at the site, which actually showed decreases in groundwater levels in one of the two nearby observation wells. While groundwater depletion was documented at one of the observation wells, this was attributed to “atmospheric pressure” as opposed to the pumping that was taking place at the Harms-Kevin House site.

Additional questions remain as to whether the well-pump test was adequate to show the true impacts the facility will have on neighboring residents’ groundwater wells. Julie Fox, a neighboring resident, is concerned because the test was based on what appear to be extremely low estimates made by Harms regarding how much water the facility would actually use. In addition, the test only showed the impacts to groundwater after pumping took place for 123 minutes.

How can a 123-minute pump test possibly show the long-term effects to groundwater?” Fox questioned.

When the county board decided to recommend denial of the application, they voted that a hydrology study be done with the results meeting the satisfaction of the neighbors with regard to their water supplies,” Fox continued. “Neither the study nor the results meet my satisfaction. Further, a 123-minute well-pump test is not equivalent to a hydrology study.”

From the Dec. 14-20, 2011, issue

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