Photograph by Steven Higgs

These bubbles on a Randolph County CAFO manure lagoon are made of plastic that is supposed to protect groundwater. The liner has filled with methane gas and pushed its way up through 14 feet of manure and broke the surface. Seventeen such bubbles exist on the 7.2-acre manure pond. Neighbors call it Bubble Trouble Lagoon.

Indiana CAFO Watch

Editor's note: Rural Indiana citizens sent the following letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels imploring him to act on threats posed to human health, the environment and state finances from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.


March 11, 2010

Governor Daniels:

Events of the past nine months have triggered this letter. Over the past year many of the Confined Feeding Operations and Confined Animal Feeding Operations have asked for a voidance from their permits. They have either fallen below the number of animals or have gone out of business. How many of these will be closed without proper environmental procedures by the owners?

"We are shocked that a governor that prides himself on fiscal responsibility would allow this total lack of fiscal responsibility by one segment of industry."Muncie Sow, in Delaware County, was closed, and the facility was allowed to be sold to another party without proper closure and environmental cleanup. When IDEM finally made the move to clean up the area, the cost was over $200,000 at taxpayers' expense. Then, of course, the rest of the pollution went down the river, killing the fish and polluting a recreational area. The CAFO owner has not appeared in court. We wonder how many hours of IDEM staff time should be charged to this case without resolution.

Now we have a dairy that has a record of violations plus a compromised lagoon since 2008. The liner that was to protect the groundwater is now on the top and has been that way since 2008. This is the "Bubble Trouble Lagoon," as there are huge bubbles of contained manure that can be seen from a distance. We have concerns that there has been contamination of the groundwater in the area of residents' homes. This dairy is now in foreclosure and bankruptcy and has a lawsuit filed against it. IDEM is considering renewing the permit. Will this dairy stay in business? Will it be sold without proper environmental cleanup? Will it close and the taxpayers be required to foot the bill for cleanup? These are important questions that bring up another subject.

A review of the legislation that has been authored for the past five years (all but this year) showed there has been a bill that would have required all CFOs and CAFOs to carry either a bond or money in a fund for cleanup. Each one would have given financial assurance to the taxpayers that the taxpayers were not going to be paying for cleanup. Yet each time the bill was not heard in the Senate Energy and Environmental Committee. One bill did make it to hearing but was so watered down it was not an effective bill. Now this begs the question as to why this has happened. Is it lack of foresight by this administration? Are there such powerful lobbying groups working with your administration that the taxpayers' welfare is dismissed? We, as taxpayers, do not have the answer, but we do believe we should have an answer to these questions by the Governor of our State.
"We have a dairy that has a record of violations plus a compromised lagoon since 2008."
We, the taxpayers, have sat in committee meeting after committee meeting at the Senate Energy and Environmental Committee hearing bills on underground storage tanks and the cleanup problems that have occurred with this kind of storage. We wonder what governor did not have the foresight to see all the problems a gas station on every corner would create with out proper regulations. Now we wonder why your administration is following the same path with the promotion of CAFOs without proper regulations and a financial assurance package.

In closing, we, as citizens, are seeing our firefighters and police cut, all in the name of budget. We are seeing cuts in our school budgets that are going to have ramifications on the future generations of Indiana. Yet, while all these cuts are made, we see industrial agriculture given a pass as to carrying any insurance for a potential problem that has already cost the taxpayers money and environmental damage. We are shocked that a governor that prides himself on fiscal responsibility would allow this total lack of fiscal responsibility by one segment of industry.

We are asking you, as governor of all citizens and taxpayers of Indiana, to review this serious issue and to advocate for the citizens in rule making or encourage a legislative solution to this potential threat.

Thank you, and we await your reply.

  • Dr. Julie and Gary Alexander, Eaton
  • Mrs. Jetta Dungan, Winchester
  • Max and Elizabeth Thomas, Hartford City
  • Mrs. Kathryn Petry, Lynn
  • Mrs. Mary Ann Crayton, Chesterton
  • Bob and Barbara Hedges, Orland
  • Ann Miller, Osgood
  • Robert and Leslie Patterson, Largo
  • Jerry and Wanda Mae Carter, Cutler
  • Randy and Gena Hartman, Liberty
  • Darell Robinson, Connsersville
  • Nicholas Ellis, Lexington
  • Allen and Judy Hutchison, Winchester
  • Barbara Sha Cox, Richmond