Board considers debate over planned hog farm

Environmental group fears huge operation poses threat to health

February 25, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Concerned over reports that a large hog farm is being built near a wealthy subdivision northwest of Westminster, the chair of Carroll County's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board said yesterday that the group may schedule a meeting to debate the issue.

Kevin E. Dayhoff, a landscape designer who heads the advisory board, said he plans to poll its seven members this week on the need for an extra meeting.

The group declined yesterday to address the issue because both sides were not represented at a two-hour meeting.

Chris Bedford, chair of the 12,000-member Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club, said his group has become alarmed over reports that a Westminster farmer plans to build a facility to raise thousands of hogs annually.

Bedford said such an operation would create environmental woes by generating an estimated 27 million pounds of manure each year.

"Our concern is not only environmental, it deals with human health and survival of small farms," Bedford said.

Roland Mann Jr., who owns the farm, declined to comment on Bedford's charges.

Mann said he has built the facility and plans to operate a 2,000-head hog farm, but refused to say when.

The situation is the latest chapter in the debate over large hog farms in rural Maryland counties.

A Frederick County farmer who set up a 4,000-hog farm on nearly 70 acres without local scrutiny has sent county officials there scurrying to become the first in Maryland to ban large hog feedlots similar to farms that have caused pollution and odor problems in the Carolinas and the Midwest.

Carroll County Commissioner Donald I. Dell said yesterday that he was unaware of plans to build the large hog farm just outside of Westminster on Indian Valley Trail Road.

"Nobody in government is informed about it at all," said Dell, a farmer.

This month, Frederick's County Commission voted unanimously to seek an ordinance to ban new hog-raising operations of 250 or more pigs through March 2000 to give local officials time to draft zoning ordinances to control where and how the big feedlots can be built.

A vote is expected after a March 16 public hearing.

Dell said Carroll's officials would be reluctant to consider restrictive legislation because "we're trying to protect our agricultural community every way we can."

"But at the same time," Dell added, "we have to be careful not to let them run away."

Large animal farms -- 1,000 or more cows or 2,500 pigs -- must apply for a federal pollution-control permit administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment under the federal Clean Water Act.

The permit requires farmers to show that nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants in the waste will not seep into ground water after the farmers have spread the manure on fields.

A March 13 meeting on the "hog factories" has been scheduled at Knott Auditorium at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmittsburg.

Pub Date: 2/25/99

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