There are a handful of residents in western Rush County that have spent the last week of their lives googling, searching and finding their worst fears to be true about an issue that will soon likely hit home for many others in this county. Last week, the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals, after hearing complaints and cited facts concerning factory farms approved a special exception request from Phil Liggett to build a confined feeding facility for 2,000 hogs. That decision will be appealed by several of Liggett’s neighbors, although some are concerned that their attempts will be in vain.

Sherry Owen, who says she will inevitably feel the effects of the Liggett confinement, is concerned not just for the possible decline of her property value, but also the the potential dangerous side effects that come with a confined feeding facility.

“What scares me the most is that there are no laws in place in Indiana right now for farmers to take the responsibility of handling thousands and thousands of hogs,” Owen said in a recent interview. “There are no requirements for farmers to go from being a small-time farmer to a big-time operator - no laws, no licensing, and no real repercussions for the problems they produce for the environment. I want to go on the record as saying that I am not against hog farmers. But I am scared - very scared - about the possibilities and the can of worms that has been opened. We are dealing with a situation that is potentially very dangerous, and the people who live in this county need to be made aware.”

Liggett, whose address appeared on the October 4 agenda as 2629 W US Hwy. 52, will actually build the facility on 300 West (Henderson Road), which is in Rushville Township and just north of the railroad tracks that run parallel with US 52.

According to the BZA minutes, which are subject to the board’s approval at their November meeting, Liggett will supply the land for the confinement, but the hogs will by owned by someone else.

Currently, BZA records show that Rush County houses 90 hog confinements; it is estimated that 50 of those are in actual operation.

Cases connected to confinement facilities are evident in Indiana: Those in opposition say that factory scale livestock production facilities are currently coming into Indiana in large numbers because the state has few regulations governing their construction and operation. According to the Hoosier Environmental Council, who has worked since 1983 to protect the health and quality of life for Indiana residents, the potential environmental impact from one confinement operation is much greater than that associated with what is typically thought of as a “family farm.” They cite that hogs in particular generate four times as much waste as humans and hog waste carries disease that can be transmitted to humans.

“Confined feeding operations generate as much waste as small cities,” HEC’s website claims.

Rush County resident Jay Coffman, who appeared at the BZA meeting and went on record as being opposed to said operation, agrees with Owen on the dangers of confinements.

“Indiana does not have groundwater standards in place, so there is no specific level of contamination that would result in a fine or clean-up action for operators of confinements,” Coffman told the board. “Particulate matter scatters for about five miles around confinements - which are full of toxins. IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) is nothing but a rubber stamp. Only the local board can do anything for us. Your responsibility is to everyone.”

Despite those pleas from Coffman and several others, board chair Mike Holzback entertained a motion to approve the request, board member Mike Beard Jr. moved to deny the request on grounds that the facility would be incompatible with surrounding areas. That motion was defeated three to two: both Beard and member Cynthia Weddle voted in favor, and Lois Hatfield, Don Denzler and Holzback voted against.

The final motion on the floor came from Denzler, who voted to grant the special exception with the stipulation that all manure be knifed in. Hatfield seconded that motion. Roll call vote for this motion was the following: Beard and Weddle against, Hatfield, Denzler and Holzback voted to support.

Several other comments from concerned citizens were heard at the BZA meeting, more on those comments, as well as local city officials stance on the subject in Thursday’s edition of the Rushville Republican. Future articles will cover a recent manure spill from a Rush County cattle confinement, the county’s reaction and comments from those who experienced the side effects of that spill.



Rushville Republican Staff Writer Starr Shuppert can be contacted at (765) 932-2222; at P.O. Box 189, Rushville, IN 46173; or at starr.shuppert@cnhimedia.com. You can add a comment to this story by visiting the website at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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