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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ind. Courts - "Proposed Factory Farm Threatens Popular Youth Camp" [Updated]

House of Prayer Ministries Inc., according to a news release issued yesterday:

has filed suit in Rush County asking the court to reverse the Rush County Board of Zoning Appeals’ recent decision to grant a Special Exception to Milco Dairy Farm, LLC., allowing construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation (“CAFO”) within a half mile and upwind from Harvest Christian Camp. The proposed factory farm will have 1,400 dairy cows along with three outdoor waste lagoons for collecting about 20 million gallons of feces, urine, food waste, contaminated storm water, and wastewater. The collected waste will be emptied from the lagoons and spread on properties in Rush and Henry Counties that surround the factory farm and Harvest Christian Camp.

Harvest Christian Camp, legally represented by the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), filed the lawsuit on Monday contending that the waste and pollution from the factory farm will jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of the many children entrusted to the Camp’s care. Children ages 4 to 17 attend the Camp’s daily and overnight summer camp programs as well as special programs and community events throughout the year. Due to the number of young children, camp staff, teachers, and volunteers present at the Camp facility, the lawsuit maintains that the Rush County BZA should have afforded the youth camp the same one-mile setback protection from a CAFO that the county ordinance requires for a school. The suit also claims that the Special Exception violates Harvest Christian Camp’s constitutionally protected rights to free exercise of religion, equal protection and due process.

“Over the years, thousands of parents have sent their children to our church camp because it offers a safe and healthy rural setting for children to be educated, to grow in faith and enrich their relationship with God, and to be enhanced by the outdoors,” said the camp’s pastor, David Todd. “This factory farm will destroy the outdoor experiences for children that are central to Harvest Christian Camp’s 30-year mission and threatens our very existence.”

“This confined livestock facility will produce about 8 times as much feces and urine as the entire population of people in nearby Rushville,” said Dr. Indra Frank, a physician and public health expert with HEC. “The difference is that Rushville isn’t allowed to store human waste in massive open-air lagoons. The air pollutants released from manure -- including ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, endotoxin and volatile organic compounds -- can seriously impact the health of people downwind. Harvest Camp is just a half mile downwind, and I am most concerned for children at the camp who have asthma because most of the pollutants from CAFOs aggravate asthma. I am also concerned the CAFO could expose children to disease-causing bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella, which can run off with manure into Shankatank Creek -- a creek which runs right through Harvest Christian Camp.”

The lawsuit against the Rush County BZA, filed by HEC Senior Staff Attorney Kim Ferraro, is the second legal action HEC has taken to protect the youth camp. In December of 2015, HEC filed an administrative appeal on the Camp’s behalf, challenging the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s issuance of a permit to Milco for construction and operation of the proposed CAFO. The administrative appeal is based on claims about the nature and extent of its troublesome environmental record in violation of Indiana’s “bad character” disclosure requirements for Confined Feeding Operations permit applicants, among other allegations.

Here is the case docket. Here is the Verified Petition for Judicial Review, filed May 19th.

This is somewhat reminiscent of the YMCA Camp Tecumseh hog farm lawsuit, about which the ILB had a number of entries in 2013-15, the most recent from Feb. 18, 2015.

[Updated 5/28/16] The AP now has this story, posted late yesterday, May 27.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 24, 2016 10:54 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Courts