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Fillmore County residents protest against proposed hog feedlot

Catalpa, LLC, an Iowa-based company wants to build a hog feedlot about 10 miles east of Harmony in Newburg Township. The proposed farm facility would generate millions of gallons of liquid manure each year. Some Fillmore County residents are concerned all that manure could be a threat to the environment and protested outside an informational meeting Tuesday in Mabel.

State officials hosted the meeting to provide details about how the facility would be managed, but residents are demanding more information.

The proposed farming facility would house nearly 4,980 swine. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates all those pigs would generate 7.3 million gallons of manure annually at the facility. The liquid waste would be used as fertilizer for crops, this after the MPCA approve management plan. 

The facility would also include two barns, an animal mortality composting building, a stormwater basin, and a livestock watering well.

Representatives from Catalpa, LLC says the swine facility would create 15 new jobs and bring in $800,000 in revenue.

But many residents are more concerned about the underground rock, known as karst, which does not act as a barrier against groundwater contamination.

Mark Spande is a crop farmer and has lived in Newburg all his life. "What happens if something goes wrong? There’s no going back," said Spande.

He along with more than 400 people came to the meeting. They say the manure will bring bad smells, increased traffic on gravel roads, lower property values, may pollute the water. Protesters are asking the MPCA for an Environmental Impact Statement, an in-depth assessment of the environmental impact.

Mabel’s Mayor notes concerns also stem from a dairy farm in Iowa that used to pump liquid manure west of town.

"After years, the nitrate levels started to increase here within our city wells and pretty soon it got to the point where if you were pregnant you had to boil water to use it, and they told us basically we had to drill two new wells," said Mayor James Westby. 

Catalpa reps say the owner of the proposed farm lives across the street from the swine facility along with his daughters and grandchildren.

The proposal still needs approval from the MPCA and other agencies before construction can begin. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is still accepting written public comment until July 3 at 4:30 p.m. on the proposed Catalpa, LLC hog facility.


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