Public meeting set for Jan. 12 on proposed hog facility expansions near St. Charles

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Holden Farms is proposing to expand its two hog operations in Winona County in southeast Minnesota. The business proposes to add a new barn, manure storage basin, compost building for carcasses, and watering well at both sites, the first in Section 5 of St. Charles Township and the second in Section 14 of St. Charles Township.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will hold a public information meeting on the Holden Farms proposal Thursday, Jan. 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the St. Charles Community Center at 830 Whitewater Avenue in St. Charles. Agency representatives will explain how to comment on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet prepared on the proposal.  Local residents and the public are welcome to submit written comments on the draft Environmental Assessment Worksheet. Comments are due by Feb. 1.

State agencies use the Environmental Assessment Worksheet to decide if a more complete Environmental Impact Statement is needed. The worksheet covers site location details, nearby resources including wells, soil types, water use, manure management, air and odor emissions, traffic, and other elements. Below are a few highlights of the environmental assessment worksheet.

The first site has three hog barns, each with an 8-foot-deep concrete manure basin underneath, and one well for watering livestock. The three barns house a total of 3,200 swine between 55 and 300 pounds. Holden Farms is proposing to build a farrowing barn with a 2-foot-deep concrete manure basin underneath. This expansion would bring the total number of swine to 4,150: 3,580 more than 300 pounds, 150 between 55 and 300 pounds, and 420 under 55 pounds. 

The second site has one hog barn with an 8-foot-deep concrete manure basin underneath and one well for watering livestock. It houses up to 1,532 swine, 632 more than 300 pounds and 900 under 55 pounds. Holden Farms is proposing to build a gestation barn with a 10-foot-deep concrete manure basin underneath. The expansion would bring the total number of swine to 4,140: 3,570 more than 300 pounds, 150 between 55 and 300 pounds, and 420 under 55 pounds.

Twenty homes are within 1 mile of the first site. Trout Run Creek is about one-third mile northwest of the site and an unnamed tributary to this creek lies about one-third mile to the west. It is about 4 miles south of Elba, 1 mile south of Whitewater State Park, 2.66 miles southwest of Berea Moravian Church, and 3 miles north of St. Charles High School.

Eleven homes are within 1 mile of the second site. The South Fork Whitewater River is 1 or more miles from this site, with an intermittent stream 700 feet or more away. The second site is about 1 northwest of Utica, about 3 miles northeast of Whispering Hills Park, 2.66 miles northeast of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, and 4.66 miles northeast of St. Charles High School.

Both sites meet Winona County setback rules designed to protect the environment.

The first site would generate 4.6 million gallons of manure per year and the second site also 4.6 million gallons per year. Holden Farms plans to use up to 31 field sites – 15 for the first site and 16 for the second — for applying manure as crop fertilizer. It would apply the manure twice a year, in spring and fall, taking about 10 days for injecting it. State and local rules prohibit manure application within so many feet from homes, churches and cities, as well as lakes, streams, open tiles and wells. 

Air quality is another concern with feedlots. Based on a computer simulation, both expansions would meet state air quality standards and would not significantly increase odors. This simulation took into account the existing feedlots near the proposed site as well as homes.

See the complete Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the agency's Environmental Assessment Worksheet webpage

Submit written comments on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet to Nancy Drach, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., Saint Paul, MN 55155-4194, by email to nancy.drach@state.mn.us, or by fax to 651-297-2343. Copies of the worksheet are also available for review at this address, or upon request by calling 651-757-2101. For more information, call Drach at 651-757-2317.

The proposed feedlots require federal, state and county permits. The MPCA will issue coverage under the National Pollution Disposal Elimination System and State Disposal System (NPDES/SDS) permit. The issuance of the NPDES/SDS permit also requires a public notice. This is available online by searching for “MPCA public notices” and then scrolling down to the Jan. 2 list. Mark Gernes of the MPCA will be accepting written comments on the NPDES permit either by email at mark.p.gernes@state.mn.us, or mailed to him at MPCA, 18 Wood Lake Dr. SE, Rochester, MN 55904.For more information, call Gernes at 507-206-2643.