- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

BLOOMING PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - Some residents in southern Minnesota are worried about what the growth of large animal feedlots could mean for local groundwater and quality of life.

Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1DENEnH ) reports a new program was recently launched by state officials in four southern Minnesota counties to review water use by livestock farms and whether they have proper permits.

Water-appropriation permits are required by the state for operators that use more than 1 million gallons of water a year, but only a fraction of operators have them.

Jim Sehl, a groundwater specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said permit compliance efforts are meant to help operators get proper permits, rather than penalize them.

“There’s just been a big push statewide about the volume of water we’re using,” Sehl said.

Rural Dodge County resident Lowell Trom and his wife have sued the county over its approval of a hog farm bordering his land, saying officials fast-tracked it unfairly. Ten hog farms already sit around their home in 3-mile ring.

“It just got too big. That’s the problem,” Trom said of livestock operations around him. He was born in the house 85 years ago.

A judge ruled in favor of the Troms in an earlier lawsuit in December, saying county officials gave the OK to an incomplete permit application for the new hog farm. The operator made revisions to the application, and the county approved the 2,400 hog operation by the end of the month.

Sonja Tom Eayrs, the couple’s daughter, said her parents are worried about the smell from the new hog farm bordering their land, as well as long-term effects on air quality, water usage and contamination.

County officials contend the process was legal. Zoning and environmental services director Mark Gamm said the county made changes to its ordinance to comply with the judge’s decision, clarifying what’s required in applications.

Dodge County Administrator Jim Elmquist said the county held a public hearing about the proposed farm and notified the state and local officials about the application.

“What’s trying to be projected out there is that Dodge County fast-tracked it so nobody could get the information,” Elmquist said. “Everybody had the information.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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