On May 28, our county commissioners ignored the overwhelming scientific evidence submitted by the opponents and rubber stamped another approval on the Hostetler chicken facility applications. The commissioners, for several reasons, including the Soil Health Initiative and the Farm Bureau plank, are bound and determined to allow a proliferation of these chicken facilities throughout the North Fork.
If I was a produce farmer, orchardist, vineyard owner, traditional rancher/farmer, or resident in the North Fork Valley, I'd be very afraid.
Since the Hostetler facility began operating on Powell Mesa on April 26, 2012, there have been over 25 health-related complaints directed at the facility. One neighbor has been to the emergency room twice for uncontrolled sinus bleeding, and many others are suffering allergy and asthma problems they've never had before, yet our county health department has refused to investigate a single one of these health complaints. Their answer...do a snapshot air monitoring survey (absolutely unreliable as a decision-making tool) and say everything is fine. I will add that numerous animals in the area are also suffering respiratory issues.
The problem with this hen house is that it's designed as a DISCHARGE facility. It was designed to operate in the Midwest where humidity levels average 70-80% and a deep manure pack forms in the floor of the facility. In our low-humidity conditions, the manure quickly dries and the cage-free hens dust and wallow in it, pulverize it to fine dust, and then it's discharged from the building through the tunnel ventilation system to rain down on the surrounding neighbors. Last week, a CDPHE state inspector visited the Hostetler facility. Opponents of the facility met with him the following day. When asked about the dirt floor portion of the building, he said it was virtually bare. Instead of having a deep manure pack, at least half of the anticipated 175-200 tons of clean-out manure and litter, with its inherent bacteria, fungi, molds, spores, and other toxins and pollutants, had been discharged from the building and bombarded on neighbors in all directions.
Here's what we're up against with our BoCC. First, they're not the least bit concerned about the safety, health and welfare of their constituency, as evidenced by their response to the health complaints. Opponents have claimed that the results of the air monitoring survey were gamed. Commissioner Hovde took exception to the gaming claim. He said that the Hostetlers were given 24 hours' notice of the inspection, as was required. So Commissioner, explain why Ken Nordstrom met in the late evening with Mr. Hostetler eight days before the air survey, then magically, a semi-load of sawdust arrived a couple days later and was put into the facility 72 hours prior to the air survey. Fresh sawdust drastically dampens the emissions of small micron particulates for a couple weeks, which significantly altered (rigged) the results of the snapshot study. Needless to say, I'm puzzled by the commissioner's explanation. Commissioner Hovde also stated that he'd visited the chicken facility dozens of times and had never seen any emissions. I would suggest that he educate himself about the red light portion of the visible light spectrum, which enhances the visibility of small particulates. He'd then know when to visit to witness the emissions.
At the May 28 hearing, Commissioner Atchley stated that if the Specific Development regulations didn't exist, they could have built this facility right across the fence from a neighbor. Thankfully, his predecessors had the wisdom and vision to provide protections for neighbors via the Master Plan and the Specific Development regulations for our county. During the application process, neighbors were promised 1,000-foot setback, but the facility is 817 feet from one neighbor, and well less than 1,000 feet from two others. Commissioner Atchley says this is approximately 900 feet, so it's okay. Commissioner Roeber said there is controversy about whether this is a residential area or an agricultural area, but that he would not get into that. Well, Commissioner, that's what compatibility is all about. Judge Patrick, in his July 5, 2012, ruling, said that there was no competent evidence in the record supporting compatibility of this facility with the neighborhood. The judge wanted the commissioners to address it.
As a result of this third approval of the chicken facilities, the opponents will move forward with their lawsuit. Opponents must prevail, because if the residents of the North Fork think pollution from gas/oil drilling is a hazard, wait until one of these chicken facilities moves in next door. Please visit www.clucnorthfork.org for more information and to help us continue with our battle.