- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A Moose Creek farmer has lost a permit to fertilize his land with human waste after Fairbanks North Star Borough officials found his operation had become larger than what he had initially proposed.

The borough’s Planning Commission voted Tuesday to revoke Robert Riddle’s permit, which he received in 2007 as the owner of Green Acres Farm. His attorney, Bill Satterberg, said he will appeal the decision.

The conditional use permit allowed Riddle, who also owns a septic tank pumping company, to use sewage to fertilize his land. But planning officials claim collection and storage of septic sludge has become the primary activity at the farm - not agriculture.

“It’s kind of morphed on its own and taken on a whole new life,” said Chris Guinn, chairman of the commission.

Riddle told the commission in 2007 that the size of the sewage collection area would be similar to an Olympic-size swimming pool, according to transcripts from his testimony. State records show that Riddle has five sewage sludge lagoons and two holding tanks with a total capacity of more than 2 million gallons, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/1U1hyuz).

“The nature and size of the operation currently does not match what was proposed when the permit was issued,” Commissioner John Perrault said.

The state permit that Riddle is operating under is for a septic sludge storage facility.

Satterberg said Riddle has spread septic sludge on about 50 acres of land at the farm, where he grows sod, hay, potatoes and peonies on the 500-acre property.

“This is just another example of the eroding of farming not only in Alaska but in the U.S.,” Satterberg said of the commission’s decision to revoke the permit.

Riddle is also facing a lawsuit brought by a neighbor, who has complained about the smell from the sewage. The case is scheduled to go before the Alaska Supreme Court later this year.

Satterberg said his client is protected under the Alaska Right to Farm Act, which protects farms from nuisance complaints.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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