Neighbors fighting proposed confined feeding operation in Montgomery County

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is deciding whether to approve a permit for a confined feeding operation in Montgomery County.

Posted: Jun 6, 2019 7:53 PM
Updated: Jun 7, 2019 9:55 AM

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is deciding whether to approve a permit for a confined feeding operation in Montgomery County. IDEM received the permit proposal near the end of May from Bowlder Ridge, LLC. Neighbors who live nearby the proposed site do not want to see this happen.

"Of course we are concerned," said Monty Eldridge, who's property borders the land where the CFO would go. He maintains a piece of country paradise with cows, horses, donkeys, and two rambunctious herding dogs. The CFO would be built about a mile south of Linden and a mile east of U.S. 231.

Eldridge, along with other neighbors along the gravel road he lives on, received a notice in the mail from IDEM informing them of the potential CFO. Daryl Harmon has lived down the road for almost 30 years.

"I feel like this industrial operation that is looking to come in is definitely going to affect our quality of life," he said. He and his wife raised three kids on their land.

Marvin Swick rode his bicycle to Eldridge's house from his home. He's concerned about the health repercussions.

"Swine may be good for the table, but they cause disease," he said. "If you have any kinds of breathing problems, such as asthma, it's going to affect that."

Purdue's College of Agriculture defines a CFO as "confinement of animals in buildings or lots with less than 50 percent vegetation or ground cover for 45 days or more over a 12-month period." It also depends on the number of animals kept in the facility. In terms of swine, the university says a CFO holds at least 600 pigs.

Eldridge said they heard there are plans for 8,800 hogs at this potential CFO behind his home.

"We're concerned about odor, we're concerned about noise, I like to be able to come out here on the deck and drink a cup of coffee and not have to worry about hearing hogs squeal," he said.

He also pointed out on a map that his land is a low spot, where water from surrounding properties drains. He is concerned about manure leaking from the CFO into drinking water, and onto his land. 

To put the manure amount into perspective, according to research done by the University of Wisconsin-Extension a pig produces an average of 11 pounds of excrement per day. A human only produces about one pound of excrement per day.

"That's the equivalent of thousands of people taking a crap in my back yard daily, 365 days a year," said Eldridge.

He said another concern is road conditions. Eldridge said the roads around his home are limited to eight tons of weight and described the road conditions as poor during wet times of the year. The neighbors wonder who will take care of the damage done to roads caused by trucks loaded with hogs, feed, manure, and increased traffic.

Other concerns are attracting coyotes and what will happen to their property values. But one of the biggest concerns of all is the lack of say in what happens near their homes. Montgomery County is one of a handful of Indiana counties that does not have zoning ordinances for Industrial Agriculture Operations, ordinances that would set rules for how close a large-scale livestock farming facility could be to homes.

"Without any type of process to go through for the neighbors to be informed and be a part of the discussion, it causes problems," said Montgomery County Commissioner John Frey.

He said the county is taking steps to put these ordinances in place. He said the county planning commission recently passed a favorable recommendation to the board of commissioners to put these ordinances in place as early as June 10th. 

"I'm worried that we will wait too long and then it will be too late," said Eldridge.

Commissioner Frey said that the owner and operator of the facility, in this case, Bowlder Ridge, LLC, applies for a waste management plan permit with IDEM, and if IDEM grants the permit, the owner can start building whenever they want. He added that the commission only gets a notice from IDEM to let them know what is happening, but that the commission does not have a say in the matter.

"I am a farmer," he said. "Been a livestock farmer my whole life and I am pro-agriculture." 

He later said in a text message that "what our new CAFO ordinance will address is how animal agriculture can get along better with other members of our community."

"Our interest is getting the ordinances in place to protect everybody in the county," said Eldridge. 

He encourages people in Montgomery County who want these ordinances, and who oppose large livestock operations, to contact State Representative Tim Brown. He has also started a Facebook page called the Coalition to Stop Bowlder Ridge LLC.

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