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Hog Operation Ordered to Reduce Emissions
By Mary Losure
Minnesota Public Radio
June 15, 2001

A Renville County hog farm has agreed to pay a $125,000 fine and put high-tech covers on all 14 of its manure holding lagoons. Representatives of the ValAdCo hog cooperative and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reached the agreement Thursday night after a day-long mediation session.

ValAdCo, a hog operation in Renville County, has reached agreement with the MPCA to control the emissions from its manure lagoons. Neighbors have been complaining about the odor and air quality for years.
More Information:
  • MPCA feedlot rules
  • Renville: Co-op Capital
    THE AGREEMENT MARKS THE MINNESOTA POLLUTION CONTROL AGENCY'S latest attempt to resolve long-standing air quality violations at ValAdCo, a factory-style hog farm in southwest Minnesota. For at least two and possibly as long as seven years, several of the farm's manure lagoons have been emitting hydrogen sulfide at levels the Minnesota Department of Health has warned pose a potential health threat to people living near the lagoons. Hydrogen sulfide causes eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea, among other symptoms. Myrna Halbach, who manages the MPCA's Willmar subdistrict, says the agreement should bring a "speedy resolution" to the air quality violations.

    "The hydrogen sulfide violations that we were dealing with are at the farm's number two site. That site will have the cover and treatment system on very shortly. It's nearly complete now," Halbach says.

    The agreement requires ValAdCo to put the covers on the rest of its lagoons over the next three years. The company will also install a system for trapping and treating the gases coming off the lagoons.

    ValAdCo has tried a number of different solutions over the years, including covering the manure lagoons with felt and straw. ValAdCo CEO Eddie Crum says the farm will become the first in the United States to try this latest, what he calls state of the art technology.

    "This is going to cost us many hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this. We're not a huge company, contrary to popular belief. As a total percentage of our net worth, this is an enormous investment for us," says Crum. "We desperately want to resolve any issues. We don't want to be considered a villian and we will make every effort that we can to be good environemntal stewards."

    Renville county residents have complained for years about odors and associated health problems. The Renville county board of commissioners last month passed a resolution calling for the Minnesota attorney general's office to sit in on the mediation, and supporting the filing of a public nuisance lawsuit to address what it called "a continuing public health problem." Representatives of the attorney general's office sat in on the mediation but left in midafternoon. They could not be reached for comment.

    The agreement also includes a contingency plan that will kick in if the new technology does not work, and ValAdCo continues to violate the hydrogen sulfide standard. That plan requires ValAdCo to take steps that could include cutting back the number of animals it raises, and shutting down its two most problematic lagoons.

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