Fulton County Officials Issue Permit For Confined Hog Operation, Ignoring Public Comment and Applying Unlawfully Adopted Regulations

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June 2, 2005

To: Fulton County Fiscal Court
Tom Hodges
Bob Naylor

From: Tom FitzGerald, Director

Re: Ordinance 97-5 / Permit Application Hearing

These comments are submitted by the Kentucky Resources Council, Inc., a nonprofit environmental organization providing legal and technical assistance on environmental and conservation matters, in response to a request by citizens of Fulton County.

By letter dated May 31, 2005, KRC has suggested to the Fiscal Courts of both Hickman and Fulton counties that prior to issuance of any new permits authorizing intensive confined hog operations, that a comprehensive review of the potential environmental, health and property impacts of such operations be undertaken and that the ordinances and permitting processes in both counties be improved to address the full scope of potential problems, and to assure that if and where these operations occur, that they are properly located, designed, and operated so as to prevent nuisance conditions and to protect public health and the environment.

Regarding the specific application for a permit by Mr. Adams, KRC has these comments:

1. The permit hearing should be postponed until a new date, and the permit application should be made publicly available. Barry Sharp has indicated that he requested a copy of the application from Mr. Hodges and that verbal request was denied.

Without a copy of the application, and sufficient time to review the specific proposal, this opportunity to be heard is not adequate to satisfy basic due process. The Ordinance, 97-5, calls for a public hearing ?on the application” after the publication of notice. A copy should have been on file and available to the public well in advance of this hearing, and if it was not, the hearing should be postponed and re-noticed at a later date.

2. KRC questions whether the process by which the “general permit” for “swine feeding operations” was adopted on May 10 complies with state law. Since the “general permit” is intended to be of general effect and lasting in nature and is enforceable in Fulton County, it appears to be a “county ordinance” under the definition in KRS 67.075(1) and must be subject to public notice and must be read on two separate days prior to being voted on. KRS 67.076 demands that “[n]o action embraced in the term “county ordinance” may be taken except by passage of a county ordinance” and can’t be acted on by motion or resolution.

Since the general permit process outlined in the document that was considered and voted on by Fiscal Court on May 10 was not properly advertised or considered on two separate days, this hearing process should be adjourned as not being authorized by ordinance. Ordinance 97-5 does not provide for the public hearing being presided over by any party other than the Fiscal Court. KRC objects to this public hearing as not being sufficient to satisfy Ordinance 97-5. 3. In order to assure that these concerns are a matter of record, KRC will address the remainder of these comments to the standards of Ordinance 97-5. Under 97-5, the factors to be considered in the permit process by the Fiscal Court are these:

* Adverse effects, if any, on soil, air, water, and other natural resources;

* Any [adverse] effects on neighboring property owners’ peaceful use and enjoyment of their own property or on the public in general.

Any permit authorizing the establishment and operation of a confined hog facility should include these requirements in order to prevent adverse effects on soil, air, water and other natural resources and to prevent nuisance conditions affecting the use and enjoyment of neighboring lands:

Recommendation #1:

The confinement building should be equipped with biofilters or other air scrubbing or filtration system demonstrated to be effective to control dust and odor emissions from the building.

Basis for Recommendation #1:

The use of an underfloor or “deep pit” manure collection system, has the effect of concentrating odors within the living environment for the animals and the workplace for those employed by the hog operation. “The source of odors from a manure pit is the volatile compounds generated during the decomposition of manure. The two principal odorous compounds are those containing sulfur (hydrogen sulfide) and those containing ammonia (nitrogen). The techniques for odor and gas control inside swine confinement barns are limited[,]” and usually involve venting the odors through the pit to the outside air.” The use of commercial chemical products introduced into the waste or feed to mask, block the sensing of odors, absorb odors or to alter the decomposition to avoid generating odors, have generally proven disappointing. Id.

Studies describing the adverse respiratory effects on swine production workers have been published in several countries, concurring that approximately 50% of the studied workers experiences one or more adverse respiratory health outcomes, including bronchitis, toxic organic dust syndrome, hyper-reactive airway disease, occupational asthma, hydrogen sulfide intoxication or chronic mucous membrane irritation. (Reynolds 1996).

The deep-pit waste system involves a high loading rate and favors minimal digestion of nutrients and production of metabolic end products (gases). With this type of system the gases/odors tend to be predominantly H2S (hydrogen sulfide) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Around manure pits, hydrogen sulfide gas can be a very serious hazard. At low concentrations, this gas is identifiable by its “rotten egg” odor, but at high concentrations, it may be undetectable by smell and can cause instant respiratory arrest and death. Several people in the Midwestern United States have been killed or critically injured by exposure to hydrogen sulfide after the agitation of liquid manure in deep pits. Noxious gases formed during storage of animal manures can pose a serious threat to the health and safety of both the worker and the animal; producing acute responses even after short period of exposure to high levels of these gases, ranging from temporary irritation to discomfort to death.

The storage of liquid manure under the building is being phased out on farms in Western Europe but is still fairly common in North America. The “most dramatic effect of any agent within livestock confinement buildings is that of the acute poisoning from hydrogen sulfide gas. For buildings with liquid manure stored under the buildings, occasional sudden exposures to high levels of hydrogen sulfide may result in fatal acute poisonings or pulmonary edema when the manure is agitated.”

Odors generated in livestock housing facilities that exit the housing can make their way to downwind neighbors. Odorous compounds tend to be carried on dust particles, and strategies to reduce odors focus primarily on housekeeping measures to reduce dust emissions, including “filtration of exhaust air as it leaves the housing facilities, filtration of odorous air prior to moving past the property line, construction of impermeable barriers to arrest particle transport, and reduction in the formation of odorous compounds within the housing environment.” Mechanical or biofiltration or use or air scrubbers can significantly reduce odorous emissions, and are recommended for “high-load” systems such as deep pits where biological processing of the waste tends to be incomplete due to an imbalance in microbial populations and a loading rate exceeding the microbial ability to utilize the waste sufficiently to prevent accumulation of odorous intermediate compounds. Id.

Since the primary cause of odor generation in the removal of manure from swine buildings is the agitation and mixing of manure, the method and frequency of removing the manure must be detailed, and carefully managed. The system should be closed, with ventilation systems that are biofiltered prior to release into the air.

Recommendation #2:

A detailed manure management plan, designed and certified by a trained agronomic professional, is needed to demonstrate that the manure and associated liquids will be managed so as to prevent nuisance and pollution. The plan is needed both to prevent contamination of streams and groundwater from excessive or improper land application, and to prevent odors caused by exposure of the injected manure to the air.

The plan must include analysis of the suitability of the land for land application, including evaluation of soil and subsoil permeabilities, mapping and identification of the depth and extent of local aquifers, evaluation of vulnerability of groundwater resources, soil slope, erodability, land use of proposed disposal site and surrounding land uses, existence of water withdrawals downstream of proposed disposal site.

The equipment that will be used for injection, the rate of injection, the procedures to be used to prevent releases of manure before the injector is fully engaged in the soil, the precautions that will be taken to prevent accumulations of manure in the injection zone causing anaerobic decomposition, all must be demonstrated and become permit conditions.

The plan should identify the land area that will be used for manure application over the life of the facility, provide the easements or other demonstration of ownership or access to those lands to support the land application, and should demonstrate that the rate and manner of application will not exceed crop nutrient removal rates for the land in order to prevent buildup and runoff of nutrients (particularly phosphorus) beyond suggested agronomic and environmental levels. The loading and cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus in order to assure that application rates will not result in excess available nutrients. Limitations on application of manure or disposal of wastewaters should be established based on soil, slope and composition of wastes, to assure prevention of injection near areas of influence of sinkholes, wetlands, groundwater recharge areas, in proximity to surface waters and water wells.

Buffer strips by all intermittent and perennial streams should be required.

In addition to limits on application for nitrogen and phosphorus, consideration must be given to prevention of accumulations of toxic concentrations of metals. Appropriate limits, compliance with which must be documented by periodic soil tests, must be placed on individual and lifetime applications of manures, sludges and wastewaters for all potential pollutants of concern from an environmental or public health standpoint, including copper, zinc, nitrates, phosphorus, antibiotics, and enteric pathogens, roundworms, viruses and other biological contaminants of concern.

Basis for Recommendation #2:

While the use of soil injection, if properly controlled, can reduce odor emissions from those typically associated with landspreading by tankers or spray irrigation, and can result in a better balance between phosphorus and nitrogen in the manure, careful planning, choice of injection tools, and monitoring of concentrations relative to crop needs, are necessary to avoid creation of nuisance and adverse environmental conditions.

The loss of ammonium nitrogen as a fraction of the available nitrogen from surface spreading can result in availability of phosphorus and nitrogen in the manure that is out of balance with the crop needs and can result in buildup of phosphorus. Injection, if properly undertaken to assure control of any release on the soil surface, can conserve ammonium nitrogen and provide more balanced nutrient availability.

Liquid manure injection can reduce but does not eliminate odors. Actual field tests on injection odor conducted in Iowa in 1998 by Iowa State University documented odor reductions of as little as 50% and never greater than 75% compared to broadcast applications.

In order to reduce odor emissions and to conserve ammonium nitrogen, injection must be carefully managed in order to prevent release of the manure at the soil surface either from injecting at too high a rate for the conditions, or not having the injectors fully engaged in the soil and the beginning and end of the field before turning on the flow.

Additionally, if liquid manure is injected into the soil in concentrated subsurface bands rather than being properly distributed into the soil, there is likelihood, particularly under poor soil drainage conditions, for anaerobic decomposition with subsequent production of organic compounds toxic enough to stunt root growth of plants or even kill roots.

Liquid manure injection can result in significant odor emissions and nutrient losses when manure is not contained in soil but instead overflows to the soil surface. In order to assure no overflow manure, the manure management plan must identify the proposed injection tools and demonstrate that the injection tool meets the agronomic requirements for maximum nutrient benefit for the selected crops and that the tool capacity (and the void space created in the soil by the tool) is greater than the volume of manure to be injected. Other work underscores that the choice of tool type, injection depth, and extent of manure exposure, all affect the performance of injection relative to odor generation. The detailed study on Liquid Manure Application Techniques to Minimize Odours published by Ying Chen of the Department of Biosystems Engineering of the University of Manitoba, summarized the potential odor problems with injection of liquid manure, and explained why the choice of manure incorporation method, in and of itself, is not a panacea for odors:

Odour levels associated with land application of liquid manure are not directly related to the application method. That manure injection provides lower odour level than surface application is not necessarily true in some injection cases where excessive manure is exposed to the air as a result of poor injection operation or the use of an inappropriate injector. Odour levels are directly determined by the amount of manure exposed to the air and the surface area covered with exposed manure, if other conditions are the same. Injection may not reduce odour to a background level (equivalent to odour over an unmanured soil surface), even if it is properly done. Odour concentration at the ground level following manure injection varies from approximately double to 18 times higher than the background value, depending on the extent of manure exposure. The primary criterion for selecting an injector should be based on the tool capacity that must be sufficient in order to minimize exposed manure, and consequently odours. Other criteria should be also considered, such as the hose power requirement and manure distribution in soil.

Id. p. 1.

In order to minimize air and groundwater pollution, evaluation of partitioning of the nutrients must be included, identifying the fraction of the nutrients that will leach, volatilize, denitrify or be taken up by plants.

Management of manure, wastes and wastewaters during months when land application is inappropriate must be addressed. Storage losses to air and through runoff, of nutrients in manures can be significant.

Excess loading of available nitrogen into the environment is emerging as a significant global environmental problem. A new peer-reviewed report appearing in Ecological Applications (August 1997), Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle: Sources and Consequences, notes that the doubling of the amount of available nitrogen, and increased movement of nitrogen from place to place, is responsible for increasing ecological disruption, contributing to greenhouse gas concentrations, damaging the ozone layer, and reducing biodiversity. Ammonia gases are a major source of nitrogen movement between ecosystems, and fertilizer and wastes contribute a significant amount of the ammonia reaching the atmosphere.

As with odor creation, much of the problem in surface water pollution arises from the utilization of land areas for disposal of partially treated wastes and manures where the uptake of nitrogen and other constituents of concern will not be complete. Most crops use only 50-70% of applied nitrogen fertilizer; the remainder is either transported by erosion or runoff, leached to groundwater, or transformed and lost to the atmosphere

Complete characterization of the waste, wastewaters and manure is needed to assure that any land application will not exceed soil and plant uptake. Sampling of the metals, salt, nitrogen, phosphorus, and micronutrient content of the manure is necessary to match the nutrients to crops needs, and to minimize the risk of runoff of excess nutrients as pollutants. Maximum application rates must be limited to that the estimated plant available nitrogen from all sources, including past-years credits from legumes and manure, commercial fertilizers, soil organic matter, irrigation water, and nitrogen deposited from ammonia.

Surface waters are also affected by the atmospheric deposition of ammonia off-gassed from lagoons, which is redeposited as acidic deposition nearby in streams. According to one report, University of North Carolina researchers found that as much as 1/4 of the nitrogen in waterbodies comes from rainfall, and a major source of the nitrogen is ammonia gas from animal waste lagoon and wastewater evaporation.

Excess nutrient loading into streams results in nuisance algal blooms, hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and anoxia (complete loss of oxygen), causing fish kills.

The determination of the appropriate rate of application of manure and wastewaters associated with confined animal facilities based on nitrogen, creates a real potential to overload land and water resources with phosphorus. Manure or compost application based on nitrogen needs of a crop can lead to significant soil accumulation of phosphorus, salt and other ions in the soil. There is a significant imbalance in manure and compost nitrogen to phosphorus ratios compared to plan N and P uptake. If manure or compost is applied to provide adequate nitrogen for a crop, the amount of phosphorus added to the soil in the manure or compost can be two to three times greater than the phosphorus needs of that crop, leading inevitably to P accumulation in the soil. This accumulation in turn increases the amount of dissolved P that is carried off in runoff, leading to algae blooms which deplete oxygen in waters. Id.

Phosphorus loading in waterbodies poses several threats to water quality. By relieving phosphorus limitation in waters, eutrophication is directly stimulated. Phosphorus loading has also been implicated in increases in frequency of toxic algae blooms in North Carolina’s coastal waters. Phosphorus loading in excess of relative needs can also create nitrogen limitation, favoring blooms of nitrogen-fixing blue green algae.

Waste lagoons also accumulate solids that are phosphorus-enriched, (Salley et al. 1993; Cahoon 1996), making disposal of accumulated solids a matter of concern.

Since manure application to soils at crop-recommended rates of N results in excessive application of P, the only responsible approach to reduce or eliminate adverse environmental effects and provide crop nutrients, is to use phosphorus-based application of manure and wastewaters.

In order to prevent accumulation of “salts” which can result in reduced crop yields, a chemical analysis of the manure for electrical conductivity (a method of estimating content of sodium, potassium, calcium) should be conducted. Once these are known, proper application rates to prevent build-up in the soils and imbalances in sodium-potassium to calcium-magnesium from causing crop yield reductions, can be established. Where repeated land application of liquid manure occurs, the “salts” and sodium content of soil should be monitored, in addition to metals.

Underfloor systems in which manure is stored in pits below slatted floors, retain a high percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and injection of the manure results in a much higher percentage of nitrogen available in the soil due to less ammonia release. These factors make proper management of rates of injection critical to prevent overloading of soils with nitrogen and phosphorus.

Recommendation #3:

A groundwater protection plan is needed. The plan should include analysis of the suitability of the land for land application, evaluation of soil and subsoil permeabilities, potentiometric mapping and identification of aquifers, evaluation of vulnerability of groundwater resources, soil slope, erodability, land use of proposed disposal site and surrounding land uses, and existence of water withdrawals downstream of proposed disposal site. The applicant should be required to characterize the geological setting proposed for land application of wastes from such operations; including identification of any aquifer capable of beneficial use and quarterly monitoring or other data indicating seasonal water table elevation, quality and groundwater flow patterns. Immediate reporting of any releases or spills, leaks or groundwater contamination, should be required

Basis for Recommendation #3:

Groundwater pollution often directly affects drinking water and can occur as contamination by bacteria, nitrogen and sometimes phosphorus The primary concern with phosphorus is not movement through soils to groundwater, but is instead the movement through soil erosion and runoff from precipitation or irrigation, increasing the P content of lakes and streams and leading to eutrophication, hypoxia and anoxia due to increased biological oxygen demand (BOD). The largest nutrient contamination concern for groundwater, however, is that of nitrogen leaching. Nitrogen leaches primarily as nitrate (NO3), an extremely mobile anion. High nitrate in drinking water has been documented to cause methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome” in infants under 6 months of age. The level to which groundwater becomes contaminated depends greatly on the circumstances in the crop production system, with the rate, method and timing of application of manure in the context of crop, rainfall and soil conditions, being critical considerations.

Nitrate contamination of subsurface water supplies is a significant public health concern for other reasons, since nitrate pollution has been linked to cancers of the stomach and urinary tract, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as blue baby syndrome.

Significant issues that must be addressed include the characterization of the hydrological and geological setting. The fate and transport of contaminants must be evaluated, and characterization of wastes and wastewaters must include the fate of disinfectants, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, heavy metals in feeds, bacteria, and viruses. Pigs are physiologically similar to humans, and disease can be passed back and forth. Subsurface chemical reactions, such as nitrification and denitrification, must also be evaluated.

Injection of manure, used as a control strategy for limiting airborne release of ammonia nitrogen and other gases, can reduce the loss of ammonia nitrogen to the atmosphere, but may heighten the possibility of groundwater contamination by introducing manure with higher nitrogen content into void spaces created in the soil. Depending on the depth to groundwater, soil and subsoil characteristics, permeability and porosity of soil and bedrock, and rates of application and rainfall, and the presence of pathways such as old wells, groundwater contamination can result from soil injection, and must be addressed through proper characterization in the groundwater protection plan of the depth to groundwater, and site hydrogeology. The presence of a number of potential disease-inducing pathogens in animal manure, and trace antibiotics, make this form of fertilizer problematic from a groundwater contamination standpoint.

The possibility of groundwater contamination also exists from the containment systems used to store the manure, since cracks in containment vessels or piping through synthetic or clay liners may introduce untreated liquids into the vadose zone. Where earthquake hazard potential is significant, or the depth to seasonal high groundwater table is relatively shallow, consideration should be given to use of above-ground closed vessels rather than in-ground storage of liquid wastes.

Recommendation #4:

Sufficient setbacks should be provided to assure no nuisance odors from injection areas and from the confinement building. Setback distances should be a minimum of 2,600 feet from any soil injection area or confinement building to any property line in order to protect the full ability of adjoining property owners to utilize their properties. A general prohibition on creation of nuisances should also be included. Setbacks should be increased as size of facility increases, and all confinement buildings should be required to use filtration.

Basis for Recommendation #4:

The use of setbacks as a mechanism for isolating odors, airborne toxics, disease-causing organisms and other air contaminants from neighboring properties and incompatible land uses, is a tool that should supplement other measures taken to prevent nuisances. Setbacks should continue to be required to assure prevention of water pollution, and to minimize disruption and interference with the use and enjoyment of other lands through isolation of facilities and their inherent odors and vectors from neighboring land uses, but should not be considered a sufficient stand-alone pollution control strategy. In addition to setback requirements, the operator of a confined hog facility should be subject to a general prohibition providing that:

No confined hog facility or any portion of the operation shall be allowed or permitted which will interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of the lands of another, nor become a nuisance due to the manner of construction, design or operation of the facility, or through the failure of the landowner or permittee to take remedial action as directed by the Fiscal Court, local public health agency or a court of competent jurisdiction, or failure to close the facility. The Fiscal Court is authorized to take necessary action, including forfeiture of the financial assurance or injunctive relief, to secure abatement of the nuisance in the event that the permittee fails to abate such nuisance after notice.

In establishing appropriate setback distances, varying distances are utilized by states and localities. According to an article in Environmental Health Perspectives, (December 1995), the National Pork Producer’s Association recommends new hog operations be located 1,500 feet from houses and 2,500 feet from schools, hospitals and churches. The research conducted by Schiffman at Duke University indicated that swine odors tend to drift in a plume that is not attenuated at significant distances, and which is offensive at extremely low concentrations. This is supported by other research and anecdotal evidence suggesting that odors are a problem at far greater distances that suggested above. Pettis County, Missouri, adopted a sliding scale of setbacks depending on the number of animal units, which had as much as 3/4 mile setback from a dwelling, and 2 mile minimum distance from a populated area (increasing by 1/4 mile with each 500 more animal units).

North Carolina’s legislature, in 1996, proposed a 1,000-to 1,750-foot property line setback, depending on size of operation, 1/4 mile to any waterbody (minimum), up to 1/2 mile for significant waterbodies (down to 500 feet if lagoon is concrete lined); 500 foot to any well, 100 foot to any ditch or swale; which setbacks may be expanded depending on location relative to the 100-year floodplain, soil type, location in watershed, nutrient sensitivity of receiving waters, slope, proximity to other pollutant sources, and parklands. In Lincoln Township, Missouri, setbacks depend on the lagoon storage and volume with 1 mile setback from dwellings for lagoons of greater than 20-acre feet.

Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics J. Paxton Marshall recommended setbacks of 1 mile from any group facility and .5 mile from any residence for large swine facilities (100 to 250 breeding stock); and for industrial scale operations, (greater than 250 head of breeding stock) 1 mile from residences and 1.5 miles from any group facility, with the possibility of individual waivers if all owners within the prescribed distances waive such setbacks.

Concerning soil injection systems, the technical literature indicates that, using the dilution-to-threshold or “DT” concentration of 2 DT as a background odor concentration level at which odor nuisance conditions are not created, a distance of 2,600 feet from the odor source is needed to achieve 2 DT for a 200-sow farm that utilized a scrape, storage pit and soil injection system (contrasted with 7,580 feet for a larger flush/lagoon/sprinkler irrigation system).

In developing setbacks and other regulatory requirements to prevent nuisance odors from affecting other landowners, the USDA (2000) cautions that “[o]f paramount importance to the success of present day [odor control] systems is to avoid overly optimistic assumptions in assessing manure production and treatment efficiencies in the design of storage, treatment and land disposal systems. Overly optimistic design assumptions in these areas have frequently been utilized to justify placing an operation on a particular parcel of land that is too small. These short-term expediencies result in operations that are more likely to lead to odor conflicts or environmentally unsustainable systems from a nutrient management perspective. Cost saving measures in site selection and facility design can lead to higher cost, including expensive retrofits and neighborhood conflicts in later years.” Id.

Recommendation #5:

Berms should be constructed around fields accepting landspread wastes, to assure that no runoff contaminated with nutrients is discharged into streams or lakes.

Recommendation #6:

A bond should be provided to assure that the facility will be properly closed and any spills or releases cleaned up. Liability insurance should be provided to pay any judgments or claims from third-parties, including third-party injury claims for nuisance or loss of property value.

Recommendation #7:

The permit should be cosigned by the corporate owner of the hogs as well as the operator of the facility.

Basis for Recommendation #7:

Responsibility for compliance with the county ordinance and for avoidance of nuisance conditions should rests with the owner of animals jointly with the operators. Those who own the animals and control decisions such as what the animals will be fed, and how they will be housed should be jointly responsible for complying with the permits, even where they contract with others to raise the animals.

The imposition of responsibility for environmental compliance on the party contracting with the local producer is not without precedent, and is particularly appropriate in this case since the input and output decisions are largely dictated by the corporations and their integrators. The responsibility for environmental compliance should rest primarily with the corporation and integrators, and the permit should prohibit any contract clause which attempts to shift that responsibility solely back to the farmer.

Thank you for consideration of these recommended permit conditions. To the extent that the County determines not to include these recommendations KRC requests a detailed explanation of the reason for declining to do so and of how the permit will prevent adverse effects in the absence of these or comparable protections.


Tom FitzGerald

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By Kentucky Resources Council on 06/07/2005 5:32 PM
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