Feedlot expansion passes MPSC comment period
By Nathan Hansen
Winona Daily News
Four state and local entities and one Houston County resident have weighed in on a proposed feedlot expansion for Spring Grove hog farmer Scott Sanness.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency allowed public comment through Wednesday on the proposal, which would nearly double Sanness’ farm from 790 animal units to 1,500, allowing him to keep about 6,000 pigs in four buildings, according to an environmental assessment worksheet filed with the PCA.
The agency now has to decide whether to require an Intensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposal, a process that can take a year or more to complete. If no EIS is needed, said Charles Peterson of the PCA, Sanness will be issued a discharge permit, at which point he can ask Houston County for a conditional-use permit to begin construction.
Opposed were the City of Eitzen and Steve and Mary Jo Mickschl of La Crescent.
Eitzen Mayor Jeff Adamson wrote in his published comments the city was concerned about the close proximity of some of the manure application sites and what effect they would have on the city’s air quality.
Sanness’s proposal calls for a below-ground concrete manure tank, which would increase the feedlot’s capacity to 1.7 million gallons. The expansion requires 388 acres for manure application.
“We have firsthand experience with large feed lot/dairy operations in the immediate area, and there are no methods of application and transportation to said sites that will not adversely affect the residents,” Adamson wrote. Instead, he recommended Sanness should acquire or arrange land that wouldn’t have as strong an impact on the city.
The Mickschls said they oppose the feedlot expansion because Sanness was convicted of a felony 11 years ago after he admitted to directing a contractor to excavate one side of a runoff pond that contained manure and rainwater.
About 150,000 gallons of manure and water ran into Houston County’s Duck Creek and then into Iowa’s Waterloo Creek, a trout stream. The spill killed about 1,600 fish, according to a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sanness was fined $5,000 and sentenced to a year of probation and six months of house arrest.
“This is an outrage!” the Mickschls wrote in their comments. “Mr. Sanness already has a felony because of his present pig farm, and yet, he could be allowed to enlarge his operation.”
The state’s Historical Society, Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources all provided commentary that said they don’t have an opinion on the proposal. Neither the historical society nor MnDOT had any concerns, finding that the expansion would have no significant impact on historical or archeological sites or the states roadways.
The DNR comments were primarily concerned with the region’s karst geology, which is porous and can easily allow surface liquids to reach the aquifer in some places. The agency recommended the design for the proposed liquid manure storage facility should meet or exceed the PCA’s requirements for structures on a karst landscape.
This story was reprinted with permission from the Winona Daily News.