Residents voice concerns over proposed hog facility

Illinois Department of Agriculture officials and representatives of Parks Livestock give a presentation Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville for about 40 people who attended a public information meeting about a hog-finishing facility planned for a site west of Ridge Farm.

Potential neighbors of a proposed hog-finishing facility west of Ridge Farm voiced concerns last Thursday night at a public meeting held by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

For resident Joe Crist, two of the biggest concerns with Parks Livestock’s proposed 4,500-hog operation are potential odors and the impact on groundwater. After all, surrounding properties rely on well water.

David James, special projects coordinator for Parks Livestock, said two 160-foot-deep wells are already operating at the site. One can pump up to 39 gallons per minute and the other 20 gallons per minute, he said. He also said the hog barn would use a maximum of 30 gallons per minute of water on very rare occasions. Parks officials said they would use up to 7,000 gallons of water per day, but the overall water use would not be significant, and they believe they would not run out of water or impact other wells in the area.

“We’re not talking about a great amount of water compared to a person,” said Chris West of Frank & West Environmental Engineers in Springfield, a firm working with Parks on preparations for the facility. He said the average daily water use per person is 100 gallons per day. And as far as odor control, some Ridge Farm area residents weren’t satisfied with the company’s claim of having “the comprehensive odor control plan.”

West said the control plan would minimize smells from the facility, which must be set back at least a quarter-mile from occupied residences and half a mile from populated areas such as the town of Ridge Farm, which is two miles east of the proposed site — land owned by local farmer Alan Chestnut.

In late July, Parks Livestock, which got its start near Danville and now operates across multiple states, filed with the state agriculture department a declaration of intent to construct a  34,400 square-foot hog-finishing facility outside Ridge Farm, specifying it could house up to 4,500 swine over 55 pounds each. It would be a $1.2 million to $1.4 million facility, according to Parks’ application.

Due to the scale of the proposal, state agriculture officials were required to notify the Vermilion County Board of the project. The county board then requested Thursday night’s public meeting at the David S. Palmer Arena, Danville, to discuss it.

As part of the state’s review process, the board must make a recommendation for or against the project by Nov. 25, but the recommendation is not binding on the state, which will make the ultimate decision regarding construction.

Parks Livestock’s facility plan must meet the state’s Livestock Management Facilities Act regulations, including ground water protections, to obtain state approval.

James said the project would have a single two-room barn and there’d be no plans to expand.

According to West, limits on the use of the resulting manure to fertilizer surrounding farmland constrains the facility’s size.