PhotoGRAph by Steven Higgs

An effort to deflate giant bubbles on a Randolph County manure lagoon began last week. The Muncie Star Press reported that the state had approved a Union Go Dairy plan to puncture the bubbles and capture escaping gas. Neighbors reported work began on April 1.

On March 24, Gov. Mitch Daniels's Liaison at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management responded to a letter sent by rural Indiana citizens questioning his policies on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

The e-mail was sent from an account that did not allow the citizens to respond directly, and it contained a confidentiality statement that warned: "This e-mail and any attachments are confidential and may be protected by legal privilege. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of this e-mail or any attachment is prohibited."

The Bloomington Alternative was not the intended recipient. Below is the full text of the letter.

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Dear Ms. Cox,

Thank you for your e-mail to Governor Daniels regarding your concerns about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). He appreciates the time you took to share your comments and has asked me to respond on his behalf. It is always helpful to have input from Hoosiers regarding the challenges we face.

I spoke to staff at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) about this issue. Before a farm can be voided from the CFO/CAFO program, they must meet the closure requirement within the confined feeding rule, 327 IAC 16-12-3. This is on the web at ....
"I have asked IDEM to keep the Governor informed of any new developments in this matter." - Kristin Wiley, Governor's Liaison for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management
IDEM is very aware of the Union Go operation and is continuously monitoring the situation. With regard to the liner in the storage structure, this is a concern and IDEM is working with the operator to come up with a safe solution. IDEM approved a plan in May 2009 for Union Go Dairy to construct a new earthen storage, so they can move the liquid from the old storage structure and remediate the liner. The facility has recently submitted a remediation plan to IDEM. It is currently under review.

Your letter raised concerns about ground water contamination in the area around Union Go Dairy. Union Go Dairy has a ground water monitoring procedure in place at their facility. At this time, there have not been any samples that would indicate that the ground water at the facility has been contaminated. On March 17, 2010, staff from IDEM's Office of Land Quality provided oversight to monitoring well samples being taken and split ground water samples from the wells with Union-Go's contractor. The samples are currently being tested by a lab under contract with IDEM's Office of Land Quality.

The state cannot comment on the finances of an operation; however, Union Go is still in operation, and still has to operate within the restrictions and limits of their permit. Again, IDEM continues to monitor the lagoon and are proceeding with proper remediation, but as for "existing contamination", there is no evidence to support this claim. I have asked IDEM to keep the Governor informed of any new developments in this matter.

You mention that financial assurance packages should be a requirement for CFOs and CAFOs in the event an operation negatively affects the environment, such as a spill, the taxpayers will not shoulder the burden of the cleanup costs. While this decision is entirely up to the legislature, most, if not all, regulated facilities operate within the guidelines of their permit and the need for cleanup has rarely occurred. IDEM has only had two incidents where money was spent to remediate a site, and only one complete site closure that is currently ongoing. In any of these situations, IDEM has the ability to seek cost recovery from the responsible party. This means that the costs would not be the responsibility of the agency, or the taxpayers. The cost to clean up Muncie Sow was not more than $200,000 and IDEM, through the attorney general's office, is in the process of seeking cost recovery from the current owners. The current owners have been charged with contempt for violating their court order.

Together, all Hoosiers can work to make our state the best possible place to live and work. This administration is seeking greatness in every aspect of life in Indiana. I want us to aspire to excellence and to share the understanding that we are all in this together.

Thank you for your active citizenship. Please do not hesitate to contact Governor Daniels or IDEM with future questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Kristin Wiley
Governor's Liaison for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management

cc: Bruce Palin, IDEM
Peggy Dorsey, IDEM
Andy Tauer, IDEM
Brad Baughn, IDEM
Barry Sneed, IDEM