A Mayerthorpe area hog operation’s plans for expansion have been found adequate by the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) despite concerns voiced by neighbouring residents.
Pigs R Us is planning to expand its farming operation by 4,100 feeder pigs, bringing its total to 12,900. The work will include digging a liquid manure storage pit and building a new feeder barn, loadout addition and a wash bay.
Several residents cited concern over issues such as increased odour and noise and risk to water quality from manure spreading and storage. Lac Ste. Anne County also objected to the proposed confined feeding operation, claiming a “history of non-compliance” and failure to consider a number of issues raised by residents directly affected.
The NRCB was requested by five neighbouring landowners, eight other households and the County to review the initial approval that was granted in October 2017.
The board concluded in December 2017 that the approval officer “adequately considered all issues raised in the filed requests for review” and a hearing was not required.
Frederick and Hannah Madsen live about two miles from the proposed confined feeding operation. They are concerned about how the expansion will impact their well water, air quality and overall health. There are a few days a year the couple can smell Pigs R Us’ current operation, but the new expansion will be even closer to them, Hannah said.
“We have neighbours that live a lot closer, and they have definitely been impacted,” she stated. “We know people who cannot drink their well water and people that have had consistent health concerns that they think are linked (to the hog operation).”
The board stated a risk screening conducted by the approval officer and the requirements to build to proven construction standards supports “the reasonable assumption that the parties’ water will not be impacted.”
Regarding the concern of odour and other nuisances, the NRCB stated parties living beyond a one-mile radius of the confined feeding operation would experience impacts “both infrequent and of short duration,” calling the effects “trivial.”
Melanie Martin said she is upset she will be living downwind one kilometre from the proposed site.
“I built my dream home here in 2010… and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like trying to take care of my place and work with my animals in the stench,” said Martin, who breeds horses. “The quality of life for myself and for all the families around us will be destroyed.”
Jurgen Preugschas, president of Pigs R Us, said injecting the manure reduces the smell.
“Those are the kinds of things that we can minimize through our best management practices, which I believe we follow,” he said.
Several residents said they would be affected by manure spreading. The NRCB acknowledged that residents adjacent to manure spreading land will experience the odour. However, it noted it has no control over what lands an operator chooses to spread manure on. The board added the approval officer addressed drainage on the spreading lands with drainage tiles and found it was not a concern.
Lac Ste. Anne County requested the new confined feeding operation’s approval should be overturned based on “the history of non-compliance” and the concerns of other residents.
But the NRCB stated the County “appears to have remained relatively inactive regarding this application throughout the approval officers’ review.”
The history presented did not raise compliance-related issues suggesting the operator would not conform to current standards, or that there is any elevated operational risk potential, it continued. The new confined feeding operation is also not located in any exclusion zones, and its manure storage facilities conform to the County’s municipal development plan setback provisions.
The County did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The Madsens and Martin are now questioning how their concerns were handled by the NRCB. They don’t believe there has been enough research done on the impact confined feeding operations have on the environment.
Hannah said they have brought their concerns to Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA Oneil Carlier, who is also the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as reaching out to the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment. They have been redirected back to the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Madsens are frustrated.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that confined feeding operations — whether it’s pigs or chickens or cattle — are kind of a protected industry because it brings Canada and Alberta so much money,” Hannah said. “They are not willing to risk the income, even if it impacts people’s lives.”
Other concerns raised in the requests for review included impacts on neighbouring land values, dead animal disposal, potential increase of predators and animal diseases. However, the NRCB stated these fall outside of the board’s mandate.
Preugschas said his operation follows stringent regulations.
He added that while another 4,100 feeder pigs seems like a large addition, it is small compared to the industry. Pigs R Us is a larger operation than the average pig farm in Alberta, but much smaller than other operations in Canada and the United States.
“In places like Iowa or North Carolina, they’ve got 100,000 pigs in one spot,” said Preugschas, a former president of the Canadian Pork Council. “It makes our barns look pretty little.”
He expects to begin construction in May, with the expansion work completed in four to five months.
Oneil John Carlier (born June 22, 1962) is a Canadian politician who was elected in the Alberta general election, 2015 to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta representing the electoral district of Whitecourt-Ste. Anne. He is currently Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Forestry in the Alberta Cabinet. He is from the community of Darwell, which is located within Lac Ste. Anne County.
2015 general election
- ^"Oneil Carlier". Alberta's New Democratic Party. Archived from the original on April 23, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- ^"Rachel Notley sworn in as Alberta premier, reveals cabinet," CBC News May 24, 2015.
- ^Adam Dietrich (April 19, 2015). "Whitecourt-St Anne Votes 2015: Oneil Carlier, NDP challenger". Mayerthorpe Freelancer. Canoe Sun Media. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
- ^"Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) 2006, Economic Regions: 4813001 - Lac Ste. Anne County, geographical codes and localities, 2006". Statistics Canada. April 1, 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
- ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2015-05-08.