WHEATLAND – The pig farms out north of town are causing controversy again. A new company wishes to use an old, closed down property belonging to Wyoming Premium Farms to open up a new farrowing facility where there once was a feeding facility. The Special Use Permit was submitted to the Platte County Zoning and Planning Board and was discussed at last week’s public meeting.
The Permit pertains to turning a feeding facility into a farrowing facility. Tearing down some buildings and adding new ones. Promising fewer pigs than before, and therefore, less odor to surrounding neighbors and the town. In the past there was litigation over the smell that permeated the area and the company was required to enact several measures to try and mitigate the problem. This went on for several years until the property was eventually shut down.
Landowners Richard and Bonnie Johnson were there to present their objections and the history of the property and lawsuit.
“We are not in opposition to the pig farm, we are in opposition to a site. This site hasn’t changed since we filed our legal business with it. The pig farm sits at about 4661 feet. To the east of it is a range of hills that go up to 4900 feet, our house sits at 4519 feet down the draw from this pig farm. So on calm, clear nights we get odor coming down the creek,” Richard explained. “This is a new hog farm. It does not conform with the existing county zoning regulations and it needs a special use permit. We fought the odor from this thing for five years.”
The Johnsons went on to explain the legal steps they have taken over the past several years. They first filed a nuisance lawsuit against Wyoming Premium Farms back in 2001. The farm added covers for their liquid manure lagoons and a methane digester, but it still smelled. They even sued the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) for not making the farm to adhere to permits and air quality regulations. At one time the farm was up to 21,000 pigs. They were eventually forced to scale down and depopulate, but as of May of 2006 there were still over 13,000 and the stench continued. This site has been shut down for five years now and the Johnsons still have residual odor occasionally. The permit asks for the facility to house 8,400 animals. Adding the pigs back will make it rise again, even if they are just baby pigs.
“It’s impossible to control the odors, Wyoming Premium Farms found that out,” Richard relayed with frustration. “And here we’re going to allow another one with a special use permit to come in there. I’m going to have a war for the rest of my life.”
DEQ was invited to attend the meeting, but they refused stating it was a county issue. However, Bonnie mentioned work is already being done at the site and when she spoke with the DEQ they admitted they have been working with the company for a year to get their permits in order with the department. She asked them, “How can they do that? They don’t even have approval from the county? Why didn’t you let us know? We’re a part of the consent decree. He couldn’t answer me.”
“They can gag a maggot, those smells that come down the ridge,” said fellow nearby landowner Norb Olind. “It’s terrible.”
It’s not just surrounding landowners who are opposed to the farm. Dan Brecht spoke about the smell permeating the town and spoke of an instance when he was at Lewis Park with his son and visitors from Rawlins asked how they could stand the smell of the town. The smell was the hog farm. It’s worse on calm days, when people wish to spend time outside.
“Please vote this down,” said Brecht. “It has such a stinking track record.”
The board decided to table the decision as the owner of the company was not able to attend the meeting due to weather.