Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jasper County Politics and CAFOs

In "CAFO Burden of Proof" and "Coal C-Stone flyash and Schuringa CAFO" the timeline for activities at the Shuringa poultry-turned-calf CAFO paints a disturbing picture.

After posting those 2 articles, I received some additional information -- including a copy of a letter that NIPSCO sent out regarding the flyash issue. It's in a scanned ppt format, so I won't be posting it since many visitors to my blog do not have powerpoint software installed on their computers.

With that said, here's a quote taken directly from the NIPSCO letter:
"Regarding your question relating to the Schuringa project, NIPSCO cannot comment as to whether the placement of c-stone as a sub-base liner in the Wheatfield location is an appropriate re-use of the material. While in the past, NIPSCO has approved similar applications in other locations in Indiana, it has never been asked to evaluate the specific project you have identified in the Wheatfield area. Indeed, your inquiry is the first time NIPSCO was apprised of the fact that c-stone had been transported to the Schuringa farm in the Wheatfield area. Without further site-specific information, NIPSCO is not in a position to assess the suitability of that location as a location for placement of c-stone.

Once NIPSCO became aware that c-stone was being transported to the Schuringa farm, it immediately took steps to halt the transporting of c-stone to this site. We have requested that the c-stone be returned to NIPSCO's property."
This begs the question, "Who told Walstra Trucking drivers to deliver the c-stone flyash to the Schuringa location?"

If we were to backtrack the chain of command, I have to assume the owner of Walstra Trucking, Jasper County Commissioner, Jim Walstra, gave the order to a supervisor on the hauling project, who then passed the order on to the drivers... unless, maybe his supervisors act on their own without owner's approval?

From what I can gather, the material was intended for a dairy in this area, and approximately 100 to 200 loads, a significant amount, was diverted from that approved location to this (the Schuringa) unapproved location.

I find it difficult (although not entirely impossible) to believe the dairy would be giving the order, right?

After all, if the approved dairy location did in fact give the order, and Walstra Trucking drivers followed those orders without approval from the owner -- namely Jim Walstra -- or his supervisors/foremen... you really have to wonder how much power over politics the said dairy has in this region.

Think about it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

CAFO Burden of Proof

Remember the pictures I promised to post today? Here you go... two pics taken by IDEM at the "new" Shuringa Poultry-turned-calf CAFO, complete with IDEM comments of who was present during the shots.

The two "little mounds" pictured below are sitting atop the mountain of flyash delivered to the CAFO:

Note Photo 3 below, how large the "mountain" area is... and keep in mind again, how close to the land surface our aquifer runs.

Here's a better view of "Shuringa/denDulk Flyash Mountain" that we took today, as seen through the trees from the road. It's a lot whiter today than it appears in IDEM's pics. Notice the 2 mounds on top of it (also pictured close up in IDEM's shot above)?

It kind of looks like a GIANT SUBMARINE from the road. Kind of hard to see it if you weren't actually looking for it because they hid the mountain behind the barns tucked back in a field hidden by trees growing along Wolf Creek.

And wouldya look at how close to that creek it is? From those foreground trees to the pile. Tsk, tsk, tsk... shame on you guys!

Now, what does this "unauthorized fill" (NIPSCO's definition of the material hauled to the Shuringa Poultry aka Wolf Creek Calf CAFO by Walstra Trucking) contain?

From what I've gathered, C-Stone, the "lable" given to this particular fill, is aggregate coal flyash material, and can be either "Class C" or "Class F." Here's just a brief description of the difference between C and F as described in a West Virginia University document - "WATER QUALITY EFFECTS OF BENEFICIAL CCBS USE AT COAL MINES":
Coal combustion products can be grouped into four main classes: 1) Class F ashes; 2) Class C ashes; 3) Fluidized Bed Combustion ashes; and 4) Flue Gas Desulfurization solids. Class F and C ashes are produced in large pulverized coal boilers. They comprise the bulk of CCBs produced in the United States. They are distinguished by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) on the basis of their free lime (CaO) content2. Class F ashes have less than 10% lime while Class C ashes have more than 10% lime. Nearly all ashes produced by pulverized coal boilers in the eastern United States are Class F while those burning western United States coal are typically Class C...

The CCPs can be placed in permeable or impermeable forms. At one end of the spectrum, bottom ashes have the hydraulic conductivity of gravel, while fly ash is closer to silt. Class F ashes tend to be more permeable than class C ashes due to the tendency of class C ashes to self-cement. At the opposite extreme, fixated FGD solids have very low hydraulic conductivity, and the various CCP grouts behave like concrete and are virtually impermeable.

Nearly all CCPs contain soluble and insoluble salts. If permeable and exposed to groundwater, soluble salts will dissolve. These include salts of boron, chlorides, and sodium carbonates. On the other hand, the solubility of sulfates and calcium or magnesium carbonates is controlled by their concentrations in the mine water. It is not unusual to find mine waters that are already saturated with respect to gypsum or calcium carbonate. In such cases, little or no net dissolution will occur. Care should be taken that CCPs containing substantial amounts of soluble salts are not exposed to zones of significant groundwater flux.
If the above sounds confusing, not to worry. Tests of the material hauled to the Shuringa Poultry-turned-calf CAFO have been sent to a lab for testing. We'll know soon enough what it actually contains.

I'm still rather curious if it is "Class C" or "Class F" material...

An interesting aside... Back about 1990, my husband was working at the NIPSCO plant (where this material came from) and remembers going in one day to find signs warning to wear respirators in the area they were doing construction -- he recalls the big arsenic signs going up and wondered why, the previous time they were working there, there were no such signs. The information he was given at the time was that they had changed the source for their coal supply, and the new type of coal generated higher concentrations of arsenic which required further safety precautions on site.

But I digress. What does all this have to do with "burden of proof" with respect to CAFOs?

Well, above and beyond the "unauthorized" mystery fill being dumped and spread on the land near residential homes in this area, there's strong pressure at the Federal level to exempt CAFOs from important enviromental laws.

If you haven't yet read this article in the Demoines Register, you might want to take a quick look at it now (link). Here's just a brief snapshot:
EPA wants exemption for livestock farms - Washington, D.C. - The Bush administration is moving to protect livestock farms from pollution reporting rules and potential liability for manure runoff.

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to exempt farms from having to report emissions of ammonia and other air pollutants under the federal Superfund law, said Jon Scholl, the agency's agriculture adviser. The agency also will clarify that manure should not be considered a hazardous waste when properly used as fertilizer, he said.

Scholl, who outlined the agency's plans at a livestock industry meeting Tuesday, said the agency wants to finalize the actions by fall 2008, shortly before President Bush leaves office.
Here in Indiana, there's quite a bit of heat being taken by politicians attempting to set new CAFO guidelines, as picked up by Kemplog (link):
Saunders said the bill got 62 votes in the House, so it had bipartisan support, but it’s not easy being a Republican supporting more regulation of agriculture. “Our Republican caucus has several large hog farmers. Behind closed doors, I’ve taken some heat,” Saunders said. “There’s a lot of lobbying. Those who have been talking (of the bill) have to keep it up.”
Now there's a tasty "Conflict of Interest" story waiting to be exposed by some astute reporter out there. I wonder which pockets stand to profit by pushing this new EPA legislation through?

Is it really the EPA pushing for it? If so, I'm smelling more than a story at that particular Agency. If not, then I'm curious if the same "unnamed" masterminds behind the USA Attorney firings are helping in the orchestration of this new EPA initiative, and if anyone at the EPA have been working in fear for their jobs lately?

Because, according to one former Big Ag marketer, there is good reason to be alarmed about the changing face of Agriculture across the USA...

John Ikerd, a professor emeritus of agricultural economics from the University of Missouri, was recently quoted in Times-News (link) saying,
"I don't think there is any doubt anymore there are significant health risks associated with CAFOs."
The article is worth reading. It ends with another poignant quote from Ikerd:
Ikerd advised the crowd - who were mostly CAFO opponents, judging by applause - to convince local politicians to strictly regulate CAFOs before small farms are gone and the rural landscape is desecrated.

"The burden of proof should be on the dairy that it isn't polluting the environment," he said. "Not on the people to prove that it will."
We, the taxpayers who pay the salaries for EPA, IDEM, etc. agree. The U.S. Attornies might "serve at the pleasure of the president" ...but all taxpayer-funded agencies, political positions, and more "serve at the pleasure of the taxpayers." Maybe they just forgot who really foots the bill?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Coal C-Stone flyash and Shuringa CAFO

If you're going to build a calf CAFO in the heart of a residential community where you know your neighbors are unhappy about your settling it "next door" so to speak would think you would
  • dot all your "i's" and cross all your "t's" --
  • keep your operations well within all guidelines, including environmental, health, etc. --
  • and most probably do your best to make friends with those residents as quickly as possible --
...wouldn't you?

After all, as the CAFO owner, it's in your best interest not to intimidate people, not to scare people, not to raise unnecessary negative attention, nor raise serious questions about what you are doing ...right?

It appears to me (just my humble opinion) that the Shuringa Poultry-turned-Calf CAFO operation has chosen a different set of principles to guide their decisions.

Here's a quick "timeline snapshot" of what has been happening this month.

Tues. March 6, 2007: They get the word from IDEM that their NPDES permit is approved. Not for the 10,000 calves mentioned at the BZA hearing, but for 3,150 calves. Also... they put in another permit application to put cement floors in the 2 buildings that have dirt floors... so, just a guess on my part, but now that they have their "foot in the doors" that number of 3,150 calves may rise quickly?

Adjoining neighbors and interested parties didn't receive their letters from IDEM announcing the approval until Friday or later.

We got our letter from IDEM on the Saturday (March 10) following the approval. Interestingly enough, IDEM never addressed our point-by-point concerns as they had promised they would do in their "form" letter that was sent after we wrote them on the subject.

It strikes me as their way of sending a message on how important we are (and other residents are) with respect to CAFO decisions made at IDEM. But I digress... Back to the timeline.

Wed. March 7, 2007: Walstra Trucking trucks started hauling material into the site first thing in the morning -- some type of "mystery fill" according to one witness who scraped some of it up off the road where it had spilled out from some of the trucks.

Thurs. March 8, 2007: A helicopter was witnessed going straight down 49, took a left at 800 circled Schuringa's CAFO site and then went north. At 5 pm hauling operations to the site are ceased. At 8 pm, all equipment is taken off the Shuringa site.

Fri. March 9, 2007: NIPSCO (investigators?) show up at the site and start taking pictures. People witnessed them from County Road 800. Some said it appeared that they were videotaping the scene.

Sat. March 10, 2007: A helicopter is again witnessed in the area.

After that, all is silent... however, rumors of fly ash start to fly. Concerned citizens contact IDEM and are answered by e-mail QUOTE:
Thank you for your email regarding the Schuringa Poultry Farm, Inc. operation. You are correct, calf hutches have not been approved for the operation, as was 2 barns were not approved. I will inform you that a new application has been submitted to approve the 2 barns and install concrete. That application material is pending until engineer/permit review is complete. It is my understanding from the operation that the fly ash material is being stockpiled at the farm. Our inspector is aware of the situation and is looking into the situation.
Interestingly enough, no mention of flyash stockpiling was ever mentioned at the BZA meetings regarding this CAFO.

In a later email from IDEM to another individual on the subject, this response was given to concerns regarding the flyash material:
Thank you for you email regarding Schuringa Poultry Farm, Inc. and accepting fly ash material from NIPSCO. First of all, let me inform you that there are legitimate beneficial reuses for fly ash material, i.e. under-lament for concrete pads and roads. I encourage you to contact Tracy Barnes (317-308-3110) or Dave Berrey (317-308-3341) of IDEM’s compliance section. They will be able to explain the benefits for reusing fly ash. Secondly, I have been in contact with representatives for Schuringa Poultry Farm, Inc. and was informed that they are stock piling the fly ash material. Finally, I have made our compliance inspector in the area (Bill Burns) aware of the situation. If you have compliance issues regarding the operation, please call him at (219) 757-0275.

If you have any additional questions, please call me at (317) 233-3554.


Daniel Bruggen
One unconfirmed rumor has it that the trucks were hauling the flyash materials to another dairy in the region which apparently was authorized to receive it, and about 100 to 200 loads were "diverted" from this approved destination to the Shuringa CAFO -- unauthorized. Another rumor has it that NIPSCO will be doing a "clean up" removing this "unauthorized fill" (which they also referred to as C-Stone ...a type of flyash aggregate) from the site. Sounds almost like a "Superfund Site" operation, doesn't it? But NIPSCO can't begin clean up operations right now owing to frost laws protecting the roads into the property.

Frost laws went into effect for these roads on or about the 15th or 16th (not sure of exact date).

Why all the concern surrounding stockpiling and/or use of flyash and/or C-Stone at this particular location?

You may recall my mention of the fragile nature of our aquifer being so close to the surface -- the necessity of shallow wells providing water to so many homes -- the sandy consistency of soils in this area -- and the proximity of Wolf Creek.

BUT you might not know about -- The Pines, Indiana.

Download the f-ree pdf regarding the situation at The Pines, Indiana. It's a good read -- and very educational on the subject of flyash.

Meanwhile, back to my original question. In less than 24 hours after getting their IDEM permit, this CAFO is already tossing out "good neighbor" principles (my humble opinion), creating all kinds of concerns -- and raising all kinds of questions for residents in this area.

I'll be back with pictures tomorrow and more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Poll at the Courier Times

The Courier Times has a poll up today (not sure how long it will be up). Check it out through this link.

At the time I placed my vote, the results looked like this:


Poll Result

Should the Indiana Legislature pass the bill co-authored by local Representatives Phil Pflum (D-Milton) and Tom Saunders (R-Lewisville) which would limit where Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are built?

Yes, pass this Legistation.

No, do not pass this Legislation.


What's it all about? House Bill 1197 was authored by Rep. Pflum and Rep Saunders. Later Rep Tyler was added.

The Bill passed the House and now is sponsored by Senator Gard. Myself (and others) have a few concerns about the Bill as it stands now. For examples:

  1. This Bill states only cfo, and we believe the wording must be changed to include CAFO.
  2. The Bill also says only public schools, whereas we think it should read all accredited schools (which would include religious and private schools).
  3. Also the bill does not have any mandatory requirements for haulers of CAFO waste. We believe there is a need for licensing and bonding of haulers.
As of Monday, the Bill had not been scheduled for hearing in the committee. If you want to do your part, you can encourage hearing and passage of this Bill by writing all political parties involved:

Senator Gard

Be sure to include any concerns you have (like maybe those mentioned above) and be sure to cc your own Senator. You might also want to include the fact that we need a moratorium so there will be time to draft rules at local levels. Make sure you mention it in your letters.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Poll on PAL

There is a new Poll on PAL-Item today where you can cast your vote for Rep Pflum's new legislation that would restrict where CAFOs can be located. At the time I voted, the results looked like this:

  • YES: 70.4%
  • NO: 22.7%
  • NOT SURE: 6.9%

Visit through this link to cast your vote on this HOT issue facing Indiana. Just scroll down on their home page to find the small POLL box.

PAL-Item reported a quote regarding the new CAFO legislation from Representative Phil Pflum during his attendance at last Friday's meeting in Richmond:

"I have an obligation to protect the quality of life for all our citizens. Studies show when one of these (CAFOs) is built, property values within two miles experience a 50 percent drop,” Pflum said. “Is it right, when you’re already there, to have them move right across the road?"

Thank you, Rep. Pflum. And thank you PAL-Item for bringing this subject to the surface. That's exactly the situation our community has been placed in. Five generations of my family have lived peacefully in this family home. Where once there were no CAFOs, over the past 10 years they've been swarming into our region like an invasion of killer bees without much thought to anyone (or anything) in their path.

Think it can't happen to you? Without at least some kind of legislative boundaries on the books, it can happen to anyone!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Scenes from New York

A friend sent me the link to this blog ...and the pictures paint a thousand words each. This is what it's like folks: Welcome to CAFO H-ll Part 1 ...and... Part 2

The pictures were taken just this past week.

It's enough to make you weep for those poor residents of Eden.

This isn't about a few cows wandering around dropping a few cow-paddies here and there. This is about millions of gallons of liquid waste being spread on acres and acres of land next to subdivisions. How many pets will be wandering through those fields? How many children play nearby? How many wells draw water for homes nearby?

It's not just the nauseating smells's also the thoughts screaming at the back of your mind every time you have to "THINK BEFORE YOU DRINK" ...while you and your family remain a virtual prisoner in your home until the smells subside -- if they ever do subside.

CAFOs are NOT farms. They are heavy industrial sized livestock assembly lines built to produce milk, eggs and meats -- complete with industrial-sized hazardous wastes.

Air, water, soil and wildlife all feel the impact. And yet, some people and politicians think the hundreds of homes and families living nearby don't. Du-uh!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

USDA slammed by the Courts over GM crops?

I'm not sure if you read my comments regarding Food Safety here in the USA, but if you did, you might find this new article interesting:
"In a surprising development that may well stump the further approval of GMOs, Federal Courts in the US have ruled against the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in three successive cases for failing to carry out proper environment impact assessment, making the original approvals of GM crops illegal." (link to full article)
Like CAFOs, GM crops are part of what the Agricultural industry likes to call "modern farming" that have also brought several negative environmental consequences.

I've mentioned before in this Blog about the years ahead being years of accountability and responsibility. Could it be unfolding before us now?