County must exert control over CAFOs

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series on confined feeding operations.

I’ve met snowbirds, beachcombers, young, old, all heading from Indiana to make their annual pilgrimage to the whitest beaches and hottest days that are far, far, from a Midwest winter.

Being from Alabama, the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico were my stomping grounds, which is where many Hoosiers go, especially to Gulf Shores.

So when I discovered in the 2014 Indiana State Nonpoint Source Management Plan (yes, I read this voluntarily) that Indiana contributes enough water pollution requiring the state to be part of the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, I was shocked.

The report states, “Indiana is among several states that are responsible for significant exports of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Gulf.

The dead zone appears to be the result of a massive yearly algal bloom, brought about by the overenrichment of waters coming into the Gulf from the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin.”

This, my friends, is one of the after-effects of the large quantities of manure that concentrated animal feeding operations create.

CAFO manure generates lots of nitrogen and phosphorous (“enrichment”), and the feed consumed by the animals is doused in pesticides.

Sadly, manure and pesticides are considered nonpoint sources of water pollution, unregulated, unlike manufacturing pollutants, which are (theoretically) treated before being dumped into rivers.

CAFO manure also contributed to the algal blooms in Lake Erie, shutting down Toledo, Ohio, in the summer of 2014. And many of Indiana’s own lakes are experiencing algal blooms.

In fact, “Indiana contains many more impaired waters than high-quality waters,” according to the study.

As one can see, the effects of CAFOs reach far and wide. Their proliferation is an issue that should be of concern to all. Thankfully, the Greenfield City Council has proposed Resolution 2015-02 and will be voting on it Wednesday.

This resolution requests Hancock County officials, both elected and appointed, to respect the 2006 Greenfield Comprehensive Plan.

It plans for a 30-year expansion, showing which areas around the city are to be annexed for growth. To the south, future use will be residential and retail. But not if CAFOs continue to dot the landscape like dirty sand castles and are allowed to grow in size and number.

Human population growth is as inevitable as the tide; but swine population growth is not. The county has it in its power to allow for responsible, managed growth, the kind that will attract good housing for which good schools will be built.

The kind of growth that promotes civic pride and community. The kind of growth that attracts tourism. The kind of growth that keeps Greenfield on the map as being one of the best small towns in which to live.

Or the county planning commission and county commissioners can turn a blind eye to the needs of a growing human population.

They can pretend the majority of stakeholders, the city dwellers, won’t notice.

And many won’t. They might not be directly affected by the smell of an 8-foot-deep by 400-foot-long manure pit. They might not have to keep their doors and windows closed during the summer months.

But if CAFOs are allowed to locate too close to the city limits, over time, the population will experience a downward trend, the city and county tax base will implode, infrastructure will be harder than ever to maintain, and growth will be a dim memory.

The county has a decision to make. An amendment has been requested that would make it harder for CAFOs to build near population clusters.

Hopefully, Greenfield will pass a resolution creating cooperation and dialogue between the city and county leaders.

And a human population is watching to see if it’s time |to pull up stakes and head for the beach or stay right here at home.

Donna Steele, an Alabama native, moved to Hancock County in 2011. She lives in Greenfield.