Hog farm's odor draws lawsuit from southwest Missouri residents

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 4:29 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LAMAR — More than 30 southwest Missouri residents have sued a nearby hog farm, saying odors from the farm are damaging their health and way of life.

The suit, filed last month in Barton County Circuit Court, claims the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, near Richland Township is grossly mismanaged.

The residents are seeking actual and punitive damages from the two companies operating the CAFO, Synergy LLC and Kenoma LLC, as well as the hog farmers themselves.

The lawsuit comes after a judge last year threw out regulations aimed at banning construction of the farm. The judge said township officials lacked the right to regulate agricultural structures, even though zoning regulations to deal with CAFOs passed with 81 percent of the vote in an April 2007 referendum.

"What they are saying is that (they) don't care what your rights are because it's all about money and greed for (them)," said Zach Mcguire, one of the plaintiffs. "Unfortunately, filing a lawsuit is our only means to fight this because the state took away our ability to zone these hog CAFOs. This is our only recourse for action to get back our clean air."

Eldon McAfee, an attorney for Sully, Iowa-based Synergy, which owns the hogs, said he's found the company "to be conscientious about environmental compliance and respecting the rights of neighbors. We regret this lawsuit has been filed, and we will do everything we can to reach a resolution that respects the rights of neighbors and the rights of family farmers who formed this company."

The lawsuit claims that the hog farms, their waste-holding lagoons and waste-storage pits, and the spreading of hog waste as fertilizer on nearby farmland have created foul odors and toxic gases, including hydrogen sulfide, methane and ammonia.

The lawsuit alleges the odors have caused residents to experience nausea, gagging, vomiting, headaches, anxiety and burning skin, eyes and throats. In addition, the residents claim they can't cook or eat outdoors, have cut back on gardening and hanging their clothes outside to dry, don't hunt or fish on their property as often and have experienced higher utility bills because they rely on their air conditioning to filter the air in their homes.

They also said some friends and family members have refused to visit them because of the odors.

Synergy moved its first hogs into the county in November 2007, the complaint says.

Other defendants include Kenoma, which owns the land and hog-confinement structures, as well almost a dozen others connected to Kenoma as individuals or with ownership interests.

Township officials have appealed the judge's ruling from last December throwing out the CAFO zoning regulations, but a hearing has not yet been scheduled, said Gregory Harris, chairman of the township's planning and zoning board.

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