Proposed Winona County hog farm expansion raises pollution conce - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Proposed Winona County hog farm expansion raises pollution concern


St. Charles residents may see an addition to two existing pig farm locations in the area -- a welcome change for some, but for others, it raises a few concerns.

Holden Farms has been in the St. Charles area for more than 15 years and house more than 4,700 pigs on its two farms. Now Holden Farms is looking to expand the two sites and add around 2,000 pigs.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met with the public Thursday night to hear neighbors' questions and concerns about the proposed expansion.

As one might expect when it comes to more pigs, people might get concerned by the smell, but residents have many more things on their mind.

Most neighbors had only kind words to say as to how Holden Farms operates. However, now that they are looking for expansion, there is renewed discussion on things they could do better.

The main topic of contention is the manure. The pigs produce around 4.5 million gallons a year, so runoff issues become a problem.

"We have demonstrated water quality problems in our area already last year we had a fish kill, in 2015, manure was implicated, summer manure applications," said Jeffrey Broberg, a neighbor and geologist.

Broberg has lived next to the farms for 15 years, and said his personal wells have elevated levels of nitrates.

However Holden Farms believes they're doing everything they can to make sure water pollution remains low.

"Yeah I think being there for 12 years and 15 in the other site has given us a track record of doing things right," said Holden Farms Vice President Nick Holden. "I think as far as odor and water quality, we've done an excellent job with that and I see no reason why that won't continue in the future."

Some other residents who attended Thursday's meeting mentioned that a problem may arise from farmers who use Holden Farms' manure on their lands and also use artificial fertilizer.

This doubling down is against regulations and outside of Holden Farms' hands.

As for the smell concern, people who live next door to the farm say that there's only a problem a couple days out of the year, which is expected.

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