Six months after discussions on the subject began, the Cooper County Board of Health passed a health ordinance Friday to regulate emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with more than 1,000 animals.
“We’ve been dealing with this since February,” said Board of Health member Janet Harris. “We tried to look at all these issues on both sides.”
The Board of Health first introduced a draft of the regulation during the board’s July meeting.
After the meeting, board members met with educators from various stakeholder groups like the Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Rural Crisis Center and farmers. Harris estimated that she spent 80 hours on education and meetings before drafting the final version of the regulation.
Board members passed a shorter and more concise version of the proposed regulation on August 24. It establishes a buffer zone for waste spreading and grants the health board power to oversee CAFOs in the county.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control has been studying the health effects of CAFOs for decades. The CDC has found that air pollutants from CAFO emissions can lead to respiratory illnesses. People who live near CAFOs are also at a higher risk of mental illnesses, the CDC found, because those who live in proximity to foul-smelling agricultural operations spend less time outdoors. Spill-off and leaks from CAFOs can also lead to contaminated ground water and illnesses such as E. Coli.
Susan Williams, a leader of activist group Opponents of Cooper County CAFOs, has been organizing support for a health regulation for months. She said she wanted a stricter regulation.
“We hoped there would be more, but we’re happy for what we got,” Williams said.
Under Cooper County’s new regulation, which applies to Class I CAFOs — operations with more than 1,000 animals — waste can’t be applied within 100 feet of any occupied homes or public use areas. The Department of Natural Resources requires a 50-foot buffer. This health department regulation does not apply to any existing operations in the county. This regulation also requires that manure from these operations be knifed or injected into the soil, instead of sprayed topically. The regulation also gives the health department purview to send written notices to any operations in violation of the county regulation or Department of Natural Resources rules. A CAFO that receives this notice will then have 30 days to submit a remediation plan, or the health department has the right to refer the operation to the prosecuting attorney or seek legal action.
Tipton East, an incoming concentrated hog operation owned by Minnesota-based Pipestone Systems, sent out notices to landowners near the proposed Clarksburg facility in January, informing them that the CAFO was planning to establish itself near their homes.
Shortly after, Williams and a small group of concerned people met with the Cooper County commissioners to share their concerns. The commissioners announced in February that they would not pursue a health ordinance, according to previous Missourian reporting.
Williams began attending all Board of Health meetings to share her concerns about health and environmental impacts of CAFOS.
“If we don’t have clean groundwater, we don’t have rural water out here,” Williams said.
In May, the Cooper County Board of Health issued a “statement of concern” about potential health risks associated with the incoming CAFO, specifically related to manure management.
“Bacteria found in animal feces has been associated with human illness, outbreaks of disease and deaths,” the statement reads. “Documented cases of infected bodies of water throughout the United States, because of nutrient management practices, are also of deep concern.”
But the board’s statement noted that “evidence-based nutrient management guidelines, along with environmental monitoring” could mitigate the risks to humans exposed to infectious bacteria, contaminated water and polluted air.
In June, the Missouri Department of Resources issued a permit to Tipton East.
The operation will include a gestation building with 4,704 sows, a farrowing building with 1,080 sows and a gilt development unit for 1,620 females over 55 pounds and 325 nursery pigs under 55 pounds, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
This facility would produce 475,960 cubic feet of manure each year, which would be stored in underground pits and later applied as fertilizer to local farms.
Williams said the process of passing a regulation was a “long ordeal.”
“I think there’s a lot more people in favor of (this ordinance) than opposed, and it’s going to benefit all citizens,” she said.
Supervising editor is Katherine Reed