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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Confinement not up to Master Matrix

By DIANE VANCE | Jun 04, 2013

Jefferson County Board of Supervisors spent nearly two hours Monday reviewing a third application and Master Matrix submitted by Ryan Robertson within 18 months to expand his hog confinement operation at KK Finisher site near Pleasant Plain.

The supervisors, two members of Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors Inc. and John Everly, a manure management planner and soil sampling specialist from Pinnacle in Iowa Falls representing Robertson, went through the matrix that awards points for meeting various requirements to protect the environment and safety of the neighborhood at the confinement and any fields where manure will be spread.

A total of 880 points are possible; only 50 percent, or 440, are required to have the plan approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

DNR’s website defines the matrix: “The Master Matrix is a scoring system that can be used to evaluate the siting of permitted confinement feeding operations. Producers in counties that have adopted the matrix must meet higher standards than other permitted facilities. Before they can be approved for construction, they must earn points on the Master Matrix for choosing sites and using practices that reduce adverse impacts on the environment and the community. Producers must have 50 percent — or 440 points minimum — of the total score and at least 25 percent of the available points in each of the three subcategories of air, water and community impacts to pass the Master Matrix.”

Each of the three applications from Robertson has been submitted with only the minimum matrix points taken — 440.

“Why do this?” asked Supervisor Dick Reed who has been on the board for all three reviews the past 18 months. “Each time it’s with just the minimum points. It seems like it takes a lot of money to play this game.”

Jim Rubis of JFAN, said submitting the bare minimum “goes along with his [Robertson’s] overall sloppiness.

“He’s throwing this in over and over, hoping to wear you down,” said Rubis.

Any disagreements in any category Robertson has credited points in his plan, can disqualify the matrix when submitting the minimum of 440 points.

Monday, the board of supervisors unanimously agreed the plan was short 60 points from among four categories:

• Robertson took 20 points for a landscaping plan to plant trees to mitigate odor around the confinement building. The plan showed the required three rows of trees on the north and east sides of the proposed new structure, that included a required mixture of fast and slow growing trees.

In December 2012, the supervisors and JFAN questioned this same landscaping plan because it lacked details.

Everly pointed out this time, maintenance of the landscape was included.

“The plan shows three lines, it doesn’t show spacing of trees,” said JFAN director Diane Rosenberg. “A landscaping plan at the very basics should show placement of trees.”

Without placement or spacing specifications, the number of trees proposed is not known.

• Robertson took 30 points for a proposed “formed manure storage structure.” The matrix specifies “covered or uncovered impoundment used to store manure from an animal feeding operation, which has walls and a floor constructed of concrete, concrete block, wood, steel, or similar materials. Similar materials may include, but are not limited to, plastic, rubber, fiberglass, or other synthetic materials.

Materials used in a formed manure storage structure shall have the structural integrity to withstand expected internal and external load pressures. The design, operation and maintenance plan for the formed manure storage structure must be in the construction permit application and made a condition in the approved construction permit.

“The design is the same as before [December 2012], and points were denied before by the DNR,” said Rosenberg.

Everly said after the last submission, he talked with a DNR engineer.

“We did re-word the plan and added more details,” said Everly. “The structure is a formed structure. We tried to demonstrate that in the latest document. It’s a formed structure suitable enough to handle heavy equipment [tractors] around it.

“The engineer gave us some idea of why it was previously denied, but wouldn’t give us verbiage,” said Everly.

Rubis reiterated Rosenberg’s contention that the design had no changes.

“The last DNR letter said the matrix was in conflict with design criteria and construction of the design submitted,” said Rosenberg.

Supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt said he would need the definition of what’s in conflict.

“We feel it doesn’t conflict,” said Everly. “The engineer didn’t explain it.”

Supervisor Becky Schmitz, who was not on the board at the last Robertson matrix scoring in December, noted the supervisors allowed Robertson his points for the manure storage construction.

“DNR took the points away,” she said.

• An emergency plan is required to be included in the construction plan, worth 5 points, which Robertson awarded his matrix.

The last time, the plan contained no specifics, said Rosenberg.

“Now, the plan includes more specifics, but no information about how to contain or clean manure spills,” said Rosenberg.

Everly said this submission provided more details.

“My concerns are there’s no implementation steps,” said Schmitz.

The matrix requires a site map of the confinement building, and Everly said the plan includes the map.

“But it doesn’t show the location of such things as propane tanks and electrical sources,” said Rubis. “Part of the process of filling out the matrix is to make operators think about handling different situations.”

• Robertson took credit for 5 points on his closure plan; i.e., if KK Finishers closed down operations.

Rosenberg said the last time, the county supervisors did not count any points for the submitted closure plan.

“And there’s no difference this time,” she said.

Everly said a paragraph with some details was included with the current submission.

“There’s methods according to DNR we’ll have to follow,” said Everly.

Rubis said it was a generic closure plan.

“If you didn’t get points on this last time, why take points now,” asked Rubis. “The only thing that’s changed is the DNR will be notified prior to closure. It’s a good addition, but it’s the only thing changed.”

Dimmitt asked what the DNR was looking for in a closure plan.

“We allowed points for this before and the DNR denied them, and nothing’s changed, what are they looking for?” said Dimmitt.

Everly said previously the DNR said the closure plan lacked details.

The supervisors and JFAN discussed a few other categories, but allowed the claimed points.

“My standpoint is, submitting with minimum points and we’re disagreeing with the emergency and closure plans, and questioning the presences of old wells without documentation, and the landscape plan lacks details, I think this fails,” said Schmitz.

Dimmitt said he also was concerned about the conflict mentioned by DNR about manure storage design and the lack of specifications in the landscape design.

“I don’t know how we can say this plan is OK when we don’t know what the conflict is,” said Dimmitt.

Reed said his concerns included the landscaping and absence of wells claimed in the plan around the confinement and in the fields where manure would be applied.

“I don’t know how anyone can tell where there were old wells without walking the land,” said Reed.

Dimmitt said he would prepare the supervisors’ report for DNR and Robertson with the deduction of 60 points.




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