Montague group working against CAFO undeterred by decision to deny injunction

From local sources with
Notes by Cynthia Price

The group Reviving Our American Democracy (ROAD) in the White Lake area is fighting the construction of a swine Confined Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, which they feel rivals the Hooker/Dupont  environmental contamination catastrophe in the area.

The proposed CAFO is situated at the southern edge of Oceana County in Claybanks Township, and therefore if typical manure spreading practices continue (and there are groups working on legislation to prevent that), there will be severe  consequences in Muskegon and Oceana Counties from the 1.5 million gallons of pig waste produced annually by their proposed 4,000 hogs.

There is conjecture that Flower Creek Swine LLC, now called Marsh after the owners’ family name, was inspired by the availability of a new pork processing facility in Coldwater.

The industrial farm sits 1.8 miles from Lake Michigan, on tributaries of Flower Creek which flows into Lake Michigan. Much of the ground is clay. ROAD hired scientists to study the creek, to create a baseline because nearby Little Flower Creek has E. coli levels so high that adjacent Lake Michigan beaches sprouted “not safe for swimming” signs. Data for were gathered at three times in five locations. The final report is pending, but preliminary results show that E. coli levels are similar to those in Little Flower Creek. DNA has been frozen and will be tested in January. High counts are likely attributable to extensive dairy farming in the area, and ROAD?expects the E. coli along with other pathogens, to skyrocket once the pig factory opens.

ROAD’s CAFO Resistance Committee has filed a Contested Case with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which gave a permit for construction of the farm – which they revised after the public comment period to allow for more monitoring of the situation. While that is pending, in the group also filed for an injunction to bring the construction to a halt – filed in Muskegon County Court because Flower Creek’s owner address is in Muskegon.

Opponents of the farm construction packed Judge Marietti’s courtroom on Dec. 3 only to hear him deny the injunction, based on the criteria he is mandated to follow by precedent.

ROAD stated: “It was of little surprise...  that Judge Marietti ruled against us for the moment.  He ruled in this way because the facility has only begun to be built:  there is no ‘imminent and irreparable harm’ as required by law for an injunction, even though it seems only common sense that the construction will soon lead to 1.5 million gallons of pig waste having to be spread on nearby land.  Our attorney had warned us in advance that stopping construction at this point was a long shot.

“However, the [ROAD Committee]  chose to make this effort because we knew—had we waited for the CAFO waste (a slurry of chemicals, bacteria, and pig manure) to be spread in Claybanks and White River Townships—we would be accused of letting the owners build and spend all their money before speaking up... To have credibility, we had to file now and not wait.”

ROAD intends to continue the fight.   “When we get closer to real damage, ROAD still has the right to request the court to stop Flower Creek Swine from bringing several thousand pigs on site or manifesting1.5 million gallons of waste into our community,” the group stated.

ROAD CAFO?Resistance Committee members have said time and time again that they are not against farmers nor anyone’s right to make a good living. “We don’t, however, believe that CAFO operators have the right to foul our air and water while they profit at the expense of their neighbors’ health and their neighbors’ right to enjoy and maintain the value of their property,” the group said. “Giving a CAFO owner this power is equivalent to giving the owner the right of eminent domain, a power usually reserved to governments, with required financial compensation.”

There is a great deal of research indicating that operation of CAFOs has a negative result on nearby water bodies and air quality. From the 2010 Centers for Disease Control’s Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities, to the   International Joint Commission’s 2018 report, Fertilizer Application Patterns and Trends and Their Implications for Water Quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin, to the more local Sierra Club report mentioned previously in the Examiner, A Watershed Moment (found at https://www.sierraclub.org/michigan/michigan-cafo-mapping-report), there is no doubt that CAFOs harm the environment. On the flip side, there is work being done to lessen the harms on the part of CAFO owners and the government.

“We are determined to prevent this environmental catastrophe from operating in our area. With the help of the community, we will stop them,” said Margot Haynes, chair of ROAD.

The group wants the public to understand that filing for a preliminary injunction was just one move in its overall effort to stop the CAFO rather than it being a game-ending legal action.  However, ROAD is looking for financial support to continue the fight. For more information or to make donations, visit https://road
revivingouramericandemocracy.org/