State agency makes concessions on land-farm debate

Residents complain about lack of notice.
Thursday, January 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:13 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY - When the state Department of Natural Resources issued a permit in 2002 for a company to treat contaminated soil at a site near Millersburg in Callaway County, residents complained about a lack of public notice. In a hearing on Wednesday in the Capitol, an official with the state Department of Natural Resources acknowledged that public notification procedures need to be improved.

"Callaway County residents have expressed concern over the lack of notification they were given prior to the issuing of the permit," Edward Galbraith, director of the agency's Hazardous Waste Program, told the House Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. "DNR agrees that our notification and oversight process needs to be improved."

Shelly Vestal, whose property is adjacent to the so-called "land farm" site near Millersburg, told the committee that she did not know the permit had been issued until Environmental Consulting and Remediation began construction.

"The attitude of DNR seems to be one of reactionary rather than precautionary. The DNR has operated, in my eyes, as the land farm owner/operators, and accompanying entities tied to those operations are the DNR's customers. And, we are, but annoying people that waste their time or as a DNR employee put it, people with the 'I don't want it in my back yard' syndrome," Vestal said.

In a December meeting that included residents and state officials, a Department of Natural Resources employee said that the "not in my back yard" syndrome was a common complaint. Galbraith apologized for the comment at Wednesday's hearing.

"In a previous meeting, the comment was made about the "not in my back yard" syndrome, referring to the way in which Millersburg residents were protesting this issue," Galbraith said. "That was an inappropriate comment, and I would like to offer my most sincere apology for that statement on behalf of the department."

State Rep. Danie Moore, a Republican from Callaway County, said that she requested the committee hearing after her constituents expressed concern about the plans for the land farm, which would use natural processes to treat petroleum-contaminated soil outdoors.

"One of the greatest concerns my constituents have regarding these land farms is the lack of public notification that has been given prior to the issuing of the permits," Moore said. "I have a personal concern about the notification process as well and have voiced that concern to DNR before. DNR has worked within their own rules and regulations when issuing permits, but issues about the notification process have come up before. I hope that this meeting will help resolve some of these issues."

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