An Owensboro pollution case connected to an industrial hog operation has the state Agriculture Water Quality Advisory Board’s (AWQA) attention after a group of concerned citizens asked for help last week at the quarterly meeting.
The room of about three dozen state officials and local farmers leaned in as Don Peters read aloud the case of 10 families that have united against one western Kentucky hog producer in a group called CAPPAD, or communities against pig pollution and disease.
“In this letter we will present evidence that the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is operating outside of the parameters granted it in the permits issued by the State, to the detriment of the environment and the “community.” Read Peters.
Peters, President of CAPPAD and his “compatriot” Rick Murphy, VP of CAPPAD explained their background in water treatment and project management.
“Ricky Murphy[...] has over forty-one years experience, as a water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant operator, holding a Kentucky Class Four Operator’s License (the highest level granted), as well as being a licensed micro-biologist and water sampler in Kentucky. He recently retired from Owensboro Municipal Utilities,” said Peters as he then explained he had retired from Mobil Oil Corporation, as a Project Manager, responsible for the engineering, design, permitting, procurement, construction and startup of oil and gas production facilities.
Both served in the military.
Peters and Murphy believe that the permits provided by the Kentucky Division of Water should be revoked and current operations should be inspected due to evidence, supported by their sampling, which suggests gross pollution from the CAFO operations.
“The allowed E.Coli count for State Recreational Waters is 126 CFU (Colony Forming Units) per 100 ML according to the ambient water rule. The samples taken vary in count from a low of 1340 CFU to a high of >4840 CFU over a three to five month period, dependent upon the specific site sampled. These are sufficiently high for some sites to be classified as Biohazardous Waste Sites.” Peters said.
Peters asked the board to review the case and take action.
At the end of the reading, Board counsel Michael West said the Energy and Environment Cabinet is reviewing CAPPAD's appeal of the permits issued by the DOW to construct a hog truck wash facility in it's members backyard. West said it would be inappropriate for the board to comment.
CAPPAD had asked the EEC to review and revoke the farm’s permits issued to the hog producer to construct the hog truck wash a year ago, but has been stymied by the appeal process, according to Peters.
DOW director and board member Peter Goodmann said he is aware of the permit concerns but was not aware of the pollution. He says the board will review the case but separate water samples will have to be conducted at the suggested points of pollution.
Goodmann also said the Kentucky Department of Agriculture had reached out to him to have a sit down meeting with CAPPAD and senior EEC Management.
Peters commented, "We have requested the Authority and/or the Division of Conservation (DOC) to take the lead in investigating the data presented to the Authority, because we believe based upon our experiences to date in working with the Division of Water, that there may be a conflict of interest in resolving the issues associated with this data if the DOW were to take the lead. The DOW had not done the required due diligence in issuing the permits."
Goodmann said CAPPAD was right to approach the board, that is one of its roles in protecting Kentucky communities. He said he welcomes others with concerns to do the same.
AWQA Has No Teeth
While the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Advisory Board aids farmers in compliance by reviewing best management practices (BMP) outlined in their individual water plans, there has been some confusion over enforcement of those BMPs.
Goodmann attempted to clarify the board’s role in aiding farmers in compliance.
“All farmers had to have an Agriculture Water Quality Plan, and if they had a plan that gave them some shield from the Cabinet prosecuting an issue with them. The idea is that you actually have to have a plan and implement it, it’s not just ‘oh I’ve got a piece of paper, that’s my shield.” Goodmann reiterated that “water plans are required by law.”
The confusion centered on whether farmers who had chosen to have a plan were subject to compliance or if all farmers are required to have a plan and implement it.
Some board members voiced concern that the BMPs outlined in the KY Ag Water Plan were also outdated and needed review.
AWQA Waiting on Governor for Appointments
In 2011, the EPA issued a memo requiring states to develop a nutrient reduction strategy. The Division of Water is still working on its draft version.
Members of the board are appointed by the Governor and serve a four year term. The board is at a stand still of sorts with the nutrient reduction plan and other committee specific concerns until the new appointments are made.
Several members are up for review, including:
Larry Thomas, Farm Bureau, Amanda Gumbert, University of Kentucky, replacement for David Rowlett for Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, and a replacement for Kevin Jeffries, Farmer at Large.
A list was provided by EEC Spokesman Lanny Brannock of the following sitting board members:
Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Angela Andra’ Billings
Member at Large
Director Div. of Forestry
State Conservationist - NRCS
State Farm Service Agency
KY Department of Agriculture
KY Farm Bureau
Joseph Larry Thomas
KY Geological Society
Member at Large
Delmar Lee Robey