Industrial hog farm threatens community

Jake Stricklin, IV Leader Columnist

There is a menace nipping at the heel of La Salle County.

VMC Management Corp., an industrial hog farrowing company, is gearing up to build a super-farm in the northeastern corner of Marshall County. They wish to construct a $2 million facility located one mile south of the La Salle County border.

They plan to breed 5,600 sows, raising 1,900 gilts, and weening up to 12,000 piglets at one time. That totals nearly 20,000 pigs with the legal ability to expand to nearly double that number without additional permitting and permission.

Recently, I attended a public hearing in the town of Wenona with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and VMC Management.

IVCC’s very own geology professor Mike Phillips is one of the leaders in a community-wide resistance.

Tension was clearly high among the crowd while questioning VMC representative Nick Rippel and his hired environmental engineer, Matthew Wagner, about their proposed Sandy Creek Lane hog farm.

The company must be approved by the ILDA in accordance with the Livestock Management Facilities Act, then the Marshall County Board before beginning construction. Currently, they have no formal plans submitted to either agency, and no waste management plan whatsoever.

I come from a multi-generation farm family and plan to farm for the rest of my life.

I fully support small family owned farms, but what VMC plans to build is not a farm. It is a corporate hog factory, sited to be built in an unfit location. This could spell disaster for an entire community.

What plans they do have and have presented to the public contain gaping holes for environmental havoc. Mike Phillips lives just one mile away from the proposed site. I consulted him to elaborate on the information presented at the hearing.

The site would be in violation of environmental protection law on multiple counts. The law states that an industrial farm like this one must not be built in a valley or near surface water and must be built in a suitable and safe location.

Their current plan is to store the waste from nearly 20,000 pigs in concrete pits below the barns and pumping them dry one to two times per year for the landowner to use as fertilizer. They are building on an unstable soil type with a 2 percent to 5 percent grade.

The low bearing capacity and slope of the soil will lead to the settling and shifting of the concrete pits, causing them to crack.

The pit depth will actually cut into a superficial aquifer. These cracks, as well as the porosity of the concrete will almost certainly be leaking an enormous amount of toxic waste directly into the groundwater. The company will have no way to detect a leak from underneath the buildings.

The proposed location will also be diverting a stream subject to flooding the entire area yearly. Any surface runoff will be dumping toxic waste into nearby Sandy Creek, a tributary to the Illinois River.

This farm could almost certainly destroy the ecosystem surrounding Sandy Creek, and poison the drinking water of thousands of people.

Sandy Creek Lane would also be detrimental to air quality, noise pollution and local property values. There is very little the company can do to keep the hog odors at bay. The fumes will be released into the air and carry for several miles downwind. The smells can carry toxic gasses, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, as well as infectious agents.

Bringing a massive amount of pigs into a concentrated area also exponentially increases the risk of disease transmission, between other local pigs and people. The pigs, as well as the increased truck traffic, will make noise non-stop.

If VMC does manage to build this factory, many locals will wish to move away. Their homes will be extremely difficult to sell next to something as dangerous as Sandy Creek Lane. If they are able to sell, it would only be at a fraction of the real value.

This is in no way a suitable location to put an industrial hog farm.

This is another example of a corporation entering a community, taking what they want, and leaving the spoils behind; essentially a white-collar loot and pillage of the beautiful Sandy Creek area.

They are building here because they have done this before — 12 times in fact.

They are no longer able to establish farms near their Iowa headquarters, so they must reach out to out-of-state connections in order to grow, this multi million dollar back-scratching, being paid for by the community surrounding Wenona.

Now is the last chance to stand up and put a stop to the invasion of rural America for profit.