MPCA responds to concerns about proposed hog farm near Zumbrota

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972

Following public comments and before a public meeting Dec. 12 in Zumbrota, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff revised the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for a proposed large hog farm.

About 60 citizens attended the meeting, many expressing concerns about the Circle K Farms proposal for a 4,700-head hog farm near Zumbrota.  The MPCA explained the agency’s responses to public comments and the changes made to the EAW since it was issued for public comment in September 2016.

MPCA staff are preparing the final decision-making documents for the Circle K Farms EAW, prior to its next stop, the MPCA commissioner. After reviewing the final documents, responses to comments, and list of updates to the EAW, the commissioner will decide whether a more extensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed.

The draft EAW on public notice was available on the MPCA website and also at the MPCA Rochester office.  The citizens expressed their concerns to the agency during a 30-day official public comment period ending Oct. 5.The EAW covers site location details, potential environmental effects to nearby resources and other elements, including wells, soil types, water use, manure management, air and odor emissions, and traffic. It is not a permit to proceed with the project; rather, the EAW is intended to inform government decision makers and the public about the potential environmental effects of the project.

Issues receiving comments included: Number and distances of nearby residences, areas of porous karst geology, manure storage and management, and impact on wells and groundwater. The MPCA provided responses to the comments, and made some updates to the EAW.

All new or expanding feedlots with more than 1,000 animal units (1 animal unit equals 1 beef cattle or 1 horse) must undergo the EAW process. MPCA officials attended the Dec. 12 meeting in order to hear the citizens directly and receive their input, before making a decision on the need for an EIS. Finalized decision-making documents, responses to comments, and the updated EAW will be available on the MPCA's Environmental Assessment Worksheet webpage.

The MPCA regulates about 1,100 large livestock feedlots in Minnesota through permits designed to protect water quality. Other factors, such as land use, zoning, and setbacks from nearby residences are under county jurisdiction.

Circle K Farms must apply for and receive an operating permit. A copy of the feedlot operating permit is posted on the MPCA Feedlot Program permit applications webpage.