State regulators awarded an operating permit to a company that plans to open a hog farm in Cooper County on June 19 despite organized local opposition.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources issued a no-discharge operating permit for Pipestone System’s Tipton East facility, allowing the Minnesota-based company to open a 7,700-hog concentrated animal feeding operation, also known as a CAFO, on a 25-acre property on Renshaw Drive in Clarksburg.

This is the latest in a months-long process to institute this large-scale hog operation in Clarksburg.

Jan. 8, 2018

In early January, Pipestone System’s management company, PVC Management, LLC, sent a letter to residents living in the seven homes that fall within 1,500 feet of the proposed CAFO.

State law mandates that CAFO’s inform all residents living within this 1,500 foot radius.

“PVC Management, LLC, would like to inform you of their intention to build and operate a sow complex in Cooper County,” the letter read. “The site will consist of three buildings, all of which have below-building manure storage pits.”

Pipestone Systems operates more than 70 CAFOs in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota, public relations specialist Sylvia Wolters said.

“We would certainly invite any residents to share any concerns they may have,” she said.

Jan. 31, 2018

PVC Management, LLC officially applied to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for an operating permit. The 28-page application provided more details and specific numbers about the proposed facility.

The facility would be home to 5,784 sows, 640 nursery pigs and 1,280 swine. Combined, these animals would produce about 4.9 million gallons of liquid waste each year.

This application also gave details regarding the procedures for disposing of deceased animals. Pipestone estimated that the facility would produce about 671 pounds of dead swine each day (or 244,915 pounds each year). These animals would be composted with wood chips and sawdust. It takes about 45 days on average for each carcass to compost, the application said.

Tim Gibbons, who works with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, has been talking about these numbers for years.

“We support independent family farms,” Gibbons said. “These types of farms have been incredibly detrimental to farmers and rural economies.”

Febr. 15, 2018

The Cooper County Public Health board announced that it would not pursue a county health ordinance regarding CAFO’s. The board claimed Local adjacent farmers could potentially receive free manure fertilizer, area farmers could sell animal feed to the operation and the Tipton East facility would hire 17 full-time employees. Pipestone will likely bring in upper management from their other facilities, but hire local people for most positions, Wolters said.

As it stands, city and county officials in Missouri are allowed to pass ordinances, rules and regulations to further regulate agriculture in their jurisdictions, as long as they are not in direct opposition with state laws.

Nineteen of Missouri’s 114 counties have passed local ordinances regarding CAFO emissions that are stricter than state law. In neighboring Howard County, the county commission and health board passed in ordinance in 2017 regarding CAFOs. Under this ordinance, all CAFOs will be subject to public hearings and have to re-apply for a county operating permit each year.

Pettis County, which borders Cooper County to the west, passed a CAFO ordinance in 1997. This ordinance requires one acre of land for every 10 swine for waste disposal.

Cooper County has not passed any similar ordinances.

March 17, 2018

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources accepted public comments about the potential Tipton East facility until March 17. Concerned locals submitted more than 400 pages of comments to the DNR, citing issues with odor and waste contamination.

“After countless hours of doing research, attending meetings with our neighbors and such, we have yet to see how any of this will be a benefit to our family and neighbors,” wrote Dottie Gump, who lives in Clarksburg.

Jan Finney, a physician in Cooper County, wrote in with a similar complaint.

“I grew up on a farm, my grandparents all farmed for a living, and I am not opposed to raising animals for meat,” Finney wrote. “However, the operation that is proposed is not a family farm. It is a factory farm that is a health hazard for people living in the area, and it is inhumane to the animals as well.”

April 2, 2018

A group of local residents, united under the name “Opponents of Cooper County CAFOS,” filed a lawsuit against Cooper County commissioners. Fred Williams, who helped organize the opposition group, claimed that the commissioners refused to meet with him to discuss enacting regulatory ordinances for the proposed new CAFO.

According to the complaint, the county commissioners allegedly violated open records laws by failing to make any emails from public officials regarding CAFO’s public.Western District Commissioner David Booker declined an interview request.

“We believe that the evidence in this case is going to show that the commission followed the rules,” said attorney Travis Elliott. Elliott is representing Booker, Don Bargary and Charles Melkersman in the case.

Presiding commissioner Don Bargary made his stance on CAFO’s clear at a candidate forum June 26.

“I stand against activist groups that use bullying and scare tactics and false information to sway public opinion,” Bargary said. “I stand against a local health administrator who uses her title, young science and taxpayer funds, not to enhance public health but to further her own personal agenda to affect the outcome of an election.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control have been studying and documenting the negative health and environmental impacts of concentrated animal feeding operations since the 1970s.

April 5, 2018

The Missouri DNR paid a visit to the proposed Tipton East site, located near the Cooper County-Moniteau County line. Two landowners whose fields would receive waste application from this CAFO asked for help covering their wells to prevent water contamination.

May 9, 2018

The Cooper County Public Health board issued an official statement of concern about the CAFO.

“The Board of Health is concerned that in some situations the current level of environmental and health impact planning, oversight and monitoring of animal waste management practices are insufficient at the national, state and local level to provide adequate protective measures to ensure community health,” the statement read. “Small children exposed to particulate matter along with gas air emissions from large agricultural operations experience higher rates of asthma. Research has documented increased rates of depression associated with living nearby large animal feeding operations… Currently, there are no known evidence based practices that can safely remove the contaminants such as antibiotics, hormones and other medications from animal feces.”

Cooper County physician Everett Murphy has been attending community meetings for the past six months to discuss large-scale farming from a clinical perspective. Murphy said that his biggest concerns were respiratory illnesses from inhaling particles of dried animal waste, groundwater contamination and antibiotic resistance.

“These places need to have standards and regulations, and it’s up to local government to make that happen,” Murphy said.

June 19, 2018

The Missouri DNR issued a Class-IC no-discharge operating permit to Pipestone Systems. This can be broken down further. “Class-IC” means that the operation can house 2,500-7,499 swine above 55 pounds, or 10,000-29,999 swine under 55 pounds. “No-discharge” means that Tipton East must have enough space to safely store all animal waste. A third-party will be contracted to pump out the waste from underground pits and dispose of it.

June 25, 2018

Cooper County Circuit judge Robert Koffman denied a motion from the Cooper County commissioners asking to dismiss the lawsuit. There is not yet a date scheduled for a follow-up hearing or trial.

What’s next?

Any parties “adversely affected or aggrieved” by the DNR’s decision to issue this operating permit have until July 19 to officially file a complaint.

“I would just say that we are confident in our permit application and the state’s decision,” said Barry Kerkeart, vice president of Pipestone System.

Opponents of the CAFO plan to file complaints, Williams said.

“It’s a long fight, but we’re committed to fighting it,” he said.

ccolby@boonvilledailynews.com