The Indiana House of Representatives could vote Tuesday, Feb. 21, or Wednesday, Feb. 22, on a bill that is causing some concern for environmental and conservancy groups in Kosciusko County.
If the bill is passed in the House, it will proceed to the Senate.
HB 1494, proposed by Rep. David Wolkins of Winona Lake, would ease restrictions on building or expanding confined feeding operations, defined by the Environment Protection Agency as an animal feeding operation that confines animals for more than 45 days in an area that does not produce vegetation.
CFOs include not only feeding operations, but also manure storage, transfer and treatment systems.
Current law requires approval by the Indiana Department of Environment Management before a new CFO can be constructed or an existing one can be expanded.
The proposed bill changes the language from obtaining approval to merely getting a permit, with IDEM limited in its ability to deny a permit to errors in the applicant’s paperwork.
Indiana classifies a CFO as having at least 300 cattle, 500 horses, 600 swine or sheep or 30,000 poultry.
Kosciusko County hosts 77 of the state’s 2,000 operations.
The county also contains more than 100 lakes and several miles of waterways, and therein lies the controversy.
“These lakes and watershed are a precious resource and we have to take care of them,” said Joanne Szynal, president of Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation. “Anything that endangers the watershed and our 100 lakes needs to be blocked.”
Her concern is “farmers injecting manure into the ground, either too deep or too close to the water. If we have a 100-year rain event, the likelihood is getting contamination into the lakes and creeks,” she said.
She cited “one lake in Ohio that has been closed to the public for several years because of pollution from agricultural runoff.”
Szynal is also troubled by the curtailment of notification requirements for expansion of existing CFOs and eliminating the current requirement that all individuals and corporations with an interest in the subject operation sign the application.
The new law would eliminate the requirement to notify all property owners within 1/2 mile of the CFO if the operation does not increase more than 10 percent of manure volume.
“That means a CFO could double in 10 years and the neighbors would never know about it,” said Szynal.
But Szynal and her fellow environmentalists would agree to passage of the bill if it included an amendment proposed by State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie).
The amendment would grant IDEM the ability to deny a permit if the proposed CFO construction or expansion were “too close to a public recreation area.”
Szynal may be reached at (574) 528-0173.