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The Journal Gazette

Lake group digs in after IDEM gives pig farm OK

A proposed Steuben County pig business continues to cause a ruckus, especially now that state officials have approved the farm where 4,800 of the animals will reside near Lake Gage.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management earlier this week said K&D Contract Pork met the guidelines to establish the ag operation. The Angola project has been met with considerable backlash from neighbors and concerns over water and air quality, and property values.

Owner Keith Werner, who must now obtain approval at the local level, said the fervor is misguided.

“Everything will be contained and in a concrete structure, so there won’t be any runoff,” said Werner, who says he is a third-generation farmer. “We will incorporate the manure into the ground. We will till it with the dirt. We don’t want to lose nutrients.”

IDEM spokesman Barry Sneed said obtaining a permit from the state agency isn’t an easy process.

“It is a pretty rigorous review,” he said, adding that K&D’s application process went a bit longer than the normal 90-day review. “We have engineers, geologists and our inspectors who make sure that a proposal meets the proper guidelines.”

Even so, Sneed said the department was bombarded with 300 inquiries about Werner’s pig farm operations, which is classified as a confined feeding operation.

“We usually get five or 10 (inquiries),” he said.

Although Werner has initial approval from IDEM, there is at least one group challenging the agency’s decision, Sneed said.

“There is an appeal process that can take place through the Office of Environment Adjudication,” he said. “I don’t know who is trying to appeal the decision, though.”

Steuben Lakes Environmental Consortium members are considering an appeal.

Tom Danford is manager of the group. He said the group has opposed Werner’s farm since he applied for the state’s permission last May. He isn’t surprised IDEM gave K&D Contract Pork the go-ahead.

“We kind of knew all along that our push was going to have to really begin at the local level,” Danford said, adding that Werner now must gain approval from Steuben County’s Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.

“He’s less than three miles away from Lake Gage, and closer than that to another one.”

Danford said the group will continue an awareness campaign in the neighborhood of about 400 residents.

“You wouldn’t put a pig farm next to a school because that’s probably not ideal,” he said. “That’s what we’re saying here.”

Resident Scott Townsend said he is disappointed with IDEM’s decision, but not shocked.

“I knew if (Werner) met all the criteria there was nothing they could do,” Townsend said.

“They had their hands tied, really. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.”

Townsend said residents should reach out to their local lawmakers.

“We need something that makes it harder for operations like this to go in,” he said.

Werner said his pig farm would be on 60 acres.

“I’m not reinventing the wheel here,” he said. “In order to make it today, you have to be bigger. I don’t necessarily like that, but the emphasis is on quantity.”