Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
Dairy met with strong opposition
MVP officials to build 4,500-cow facility
By Nancy Allen
Keith Canary of Rockford speaks during a public meeting Tuesday held by the Ohio. . .
CELINA - Officials of a 4,500-head dairy proposed for northwest of Neptune say they plan to proceed despite a meeting on Tuesday attended by a large crowd composed mainly of opponents.
About 140 people packed the Mercer County Central Services Building conference room for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's open house and public meeting. Prior to the meeting, a few people outside the building carried signs calling for a boycott of Dannon Yogurt, which would buy the dairy's milk to make yogurt at its Minster plant.
The meeting was called to gather comments on draft permits to install and operate for MVP Dairy LLC, a partnership of VanTilburg Farms of Celina and McCarty Dairy LLC of Colby, Kansas. Twenty-five people with concerns about the dairy spoke during the 90-minute public comment period. One person spoke in favor of the dairy.
Most of the concerns focused on odor, manure runoff, groundwater contamination, exhausted wells, road damage from truck traffic and decreased property values. The meeting was punctuated by bursts of applause after several people had spoken. Many expressed concerns with nutrient-management issues that such a large facility might create. Many mentioned the Grand Lake Watershed's distressed status and issues with toxic blue-green algae. Some speakers criticized VanTilburg Farms management practices.
VanTilburg and McCarty family members attended the meeting but did not speak.
Melvin Steinbrunner, 8270 Rice Road, Celina, worries about the odor of the waste generated by 4,500 cows.
"The smell will be horrendous," he said. "I hope the people in Columbus think of the people who have to live here, because we're going to be stuck with this mess."
Charles Wurster, who lives a half mile away from the site, said he and his wife may move if the dairy is built. He noted that numerous other livestock facilities have sprouted up around him in recent years.
"We've all been silent and complacent too long," Wurster said. "We polluted our own lake, and now we look to pollute a Great Lake. We must stop building CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and get back to our roots."
The proposed dairy is located in the St. Marys River Watershed, which eventually flows to Lake Erie.
Barry Davis, who lives on Davis Road, called the dairy's officials "greedy millionaires" and said he worried about a diminished quality of life if the dairy is built.
Jeremy Leugers, 7320 Bogart Road, who lives less than a mile from the proposed dairy, asked ODA officials to consider how the dairy would affect the community.
"Please think of all the people this will upset," he said. "Not the few who will make money."
At one point Kevin Elder, director of the ODA's Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, reminded speakers that they had been instructed at the beginning of the meeting to keep their comments to three minutes each.
"This decision affects the rest of our lives, and you're limiting us to three minutes," a man said from the audience.
Neptune-area resident Maria Suhr urged crowd members to elect leaders who protect the environment and water quality.
The Daily Standard publisher Frank Snyder, whose son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren live near the proposed dairy, said 4,500 cows would produce the same amount of waste as 19,000 people, based on information from a Canadian university.
Dennis Piper, Celina, said more and more livestock operations are moving into the northern part of the county, which traditionally has been dominated with row crop agriculture.
"You can see a trend of migrating the livestock from the southern part of the county to the north part," he said. "We have to learn (from) what happened in the Grand Lake Watershed."
Piper's comment was followed by thunderous applause.
Keith Canary lives across from Heartland Dairy Holdings LLC, 3101 Tama Road, a 1,200-head operation southwest of Rockford. He told the crowd that he and many other community members fought against the dairy's application for state permits more than 10 years ago, but it did no good.
Canary said Hopewell Township roads near the dairy have been "destroyed" due to the constant truck traffic to and from the dairy. When manure is irrigated onto farmland, he and his family must stay in their home for days afterward. Canary said he brought a spray bottle with manure in it. Crowd members chuckled when he offered to retrieve it from his car so he could spray it on Kevin Elder, director of the ODA's Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, who facilitated the meeting.
Canary said he believed Tuesday's meeting would not change MVP's plan to build the dairy.
"What you're saying, doing, posting is not going to do squat," he said. "The only one that can pull the plug on this is VanTilburg."
Theresa Howick, 7531 State Route 197, Celina, spoke in favor of the dairy, saying she believed the ODA and MVP officials would protect the environment.
The public can submit written comments on the dairy's draft permits until 5 p.m. Aug. 15 by sending them to email@example.com, faxing them to 614-728-6335, or mailing them to the ODA's Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, A.B. Graham Building, 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068. Comments should be typed or handwritten legibly and should include the person's name, complete mailing address and email address.
Elder said a responsiveness summary to comments from Tuesday's meeting and any other written comments received by the Aug. 15 deadline would be mailed in about four weeks to those who commented.
Kyle VanTilburg this morning said the meeting did not change MVP officials' plan to proceed and pledged to run the facility correctly.
"It was hard not to take some of the things said personal, but at the end of the day we know we are doing things right and following regulations," he said.
VanTilburg has said the enclosed barns, the manure-flushing system and a state-of-the-art anaerobic manure-treatment system will control odors.
Every few hours manure will be flushed from the cow barns' aisles to keep water from standing and attracting flies. The anaerobic manure-treatment system should produce little to no odor water, VanTilburg said.
Ken McCarty this morning said he understands community members' concerns expressed during the meeting.
"I think the meeting was a good avenue for people to express their concerns, and there were some valid concerns, but I believe all are addressed in the permit adequately and are going to be monitored and addressed by the ODA," he said this morning. "I believe the best practices we are going to implement between the VanTilburg family and our family I think will quell any and all of those concerns."
The 82-acre site is located adjacent to Hasis Road on the south side of U.S. 33. MVP's owners on March 20 announced plans for the multimillion dollar facility and on April 20 held an informal open house for people to ask questions. A community meeting was held on June 19.
The facility would have six cow barns, two manure-settling basins, each capable of holding about 8 million gallons; a 32 million gallon anaerobic wastewater cell; a 27.5 million gallon irrigation pond; and a 4 million gallon pond for silage runoff. The operational facility would employ about 35 people, MVP officials have said.
The design includes a visitors' center to educate groups about the operation, farm officials have said. A manager from the McCarty family from Kansas will manage the new dairy.
The farm would annually produce about 12 million gallons of liquid manure and 25 million gallons of treated wastewater that would be applied via a center pivot to 800 acres of surrounding farmland owned by the VanTilburgs and others, according to information in the draft permit to install. An architectural drawing includes a site for a "future potential" digester, which would convert methane into energy.
The county's current largest dairy farm is Heartland Dairy Holdings LLC, 3101 Tama Road, southwest of Rockford.
A dairy with 4,500 cows would produce the same amount of waste as 198,000 people, based on information from a Canadian university. The error was made in reporting.