Bartholomew and Decatur County residents raised concerns during a public meeting Thursday about a proposed 4,400-head hog farm near Hartsville.
Officials at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management hosted the meeting to inform public of the state’s regulations. But IDEM representatives emphasized that many of the residents’ objections fall outside of their purview.
The farm that would be built near State Road 46 and 950 West qualifies as a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), which requires a special permit from IDEM.
The Columbus Republic reports nearby residents are worried manure runoff from the farm could contaminate groundwater sources. Residents said Thursday they are also concerned about water overuse, how the farm will smell, and a possible decline in property values.
IDEM spokesperson Barry Sneed says there is no reason to think the farm would deplete local water sources. Other issues fall outside the agency’s mission to prevent pollution.
“They do have a say in the sense that if they bring something up that’s within the rules and regulations then we can look at that,” he says. “If it’s just ‘I don’t want the farm near me’ or it’s things that we don’t have authority in, then certainly we can’t do anything about that or even consider that as a part of the decision.”
Longtime area resident Carol Frensemeier says she knows IDEM’s scope is limited, but many of residents’ concerns do not seem to be any other agency’s problem either.
“I think overall everything is so broke down into groups that one doesn’t know what the other one is doing, and they overlap or they don’t have anything,” she says. “They’re missing pieces to make it work for everybody.”
IDEM has 90 days from the day it receives an application to build a confined feeding operation to decide whether to issue a permit. But it pauses the count if it has to request additional documents from the applicant to complete the application — as it has, twice, for the proposed hog farm.
That means while the agency received the application in March, it currently expects to announce its decision in July. The date could be pushed forward if IDEM has to request yet more information.
Robert Pumphrey, who has proposed building the farm, had to send letters to all residents within a half a mile of the facility as part of his application.
In his application, he certified that his company, Ag Production Enterprises, has not committed violations of state or federal environmental law.
AJ Brammer contributed to this story.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Decatur County would still have to approve zoning changes for the farm if IDEM issued a permit. The land where the farm would be built is already zoned appropriately. It also stated incorrectly that IDEM had until September to decide whether to issue a permit. The agency will only make its decision that late if it has to request additional documents from the applicant.