Residents worry about proposed pig farm waste

W. Flower Road, Claybanks Township, Marsh Swine Farm
A Jan. 10, 2018 meeting to discuss the proposed building of Marsh Swine Farm on W. Flower Road in Claybanks Township, northwest of Montague.


MONTAGUE, Mich. (WOOD) — Community members are worried that waste from a proposed pig farm northwest of Montague could affect their water quality.

If approved, the Marsh Swine Farm would sit along W. Flower Road, just west of S. 56th Avenue in Oceana County’s Claybanks Township. That’s just a few miles from Lake Michigan and also near the Flower Creek watershed.

At a public hearing on a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit for the pig farm, community members were concerned about the safety of their water. They lobbed question after question at DEQ representatives, who said they had no reason to assume the pig farm would violate environmental regulations.

“A study is a study. We can’t assume that something is going to be done incorrectly. The statute does not require it. We are following our statute,” DEQ environmental quality analyst Meghan McMahon said.

Officials noted there aren’t any DEQ regulations on the proximity of manure to water.

The farm would include an enclosed barn that could hold up to 4,000 pigs at a time. It would produce an estimated 1.5 million gallons of manure annually. The waste will be collected in a storage facility under the barn. The pig farm can then sell or give it away to other farms for fertilizer as long as those receiving it don’t violate state pollution regulations.

However, the state doesn’t track where the waste is distributed.

“How is the community supposed to report our concerns if we don’t even know where the manure is to be manifested?” one community member demanded at the meeting.

“Well, I’m not clear on how you’d have a concern if you aren’t seeing where it’s going,” McMahon replied.

“We wouldn’t necessarily know where to watch because we don’t know where it’s being spread,” the commenter said.

The DEQ said the quality of the manure is tested once a year. The quality of the soil where the manure is dumped is not tested.

Comments on the pig farm permit can still be submitted to McMahon at mcmahonm1@michigan.gov or 517.230.3442. The public comment period ends Jan. 17.

There’s not yet a timeline on when the DEQ will issue its decision on the pig farm.