Opponents continue to fight pig farm.

July 24, 2019

The Flower Creek Swine concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

Opponents continue to fight pig farm.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

CLAYBANKS TOWNSHIP – A large-scale concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is in full operation southwest of Rothbury, and a group continues to fight it due to environmental and health concerns.

Flower Creek Swine, LLC, owned by Jacob Marsh, has been in operation for approximately three months, Marsh said.

The CAFO, which houses approximately 4,000 pigs twice a year, is located in the Flower Creek watershed that flows into Lake Michigan. It is in a zoned agricultural area on West Flower Road off South 56th Avenue approximately 1,500 feet away from the Claybanks United Methodist Church.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which is now the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, approved Marsh’s permit in May of 2018. It is valid through Oct. 1, 2022.

The Claybanks United Methodist Church

A local opposition group, Reviving Our American Democracy (ROAD), attempted to stop construction of the CAFO by filing an injunction in Muskegon County Circuit Court, but the judge ruled against it in December of 2018. ROAD also has a petition pending at the state level for the DEQ to revoke the operating permit it issued in May of 2018. In the revocation petition, ROAD claims the permit terms do not protect water quality in the Flower Creek Watershed.

According to ROAD, the Marsh farm is one of the largest CAFOs in Michigan. However, Marsh says that is incorrect. “If my farm was the largest CAFO in Michigan that would mean I had the largest farm in Michigan. That would include turkeys, dairy and pigs. I am nowhere near the largest CAFO in Michigan. Country Dairy (in New Era) is a far larger CAFO than I am, and they are just down the road from me.”

Despite major public opposition, the DEQ approved the waste discharge permit for the farm, which is expected to produce about 1.5 million gallons of manure each year.

The swine arrive at the enclosed facility weighing 15 pounds and leave after 120 days weighing 255 pounds, states a legal brief filed with the injunction in 14th Circuit Court. Marsh said the pigs will remain in the barn for five months.

A sign posted at Meinert Park Lake Michigan beach located about three miles from the swine farm.

The pigs’ waste goes through slatted floors into an underground concrete pit. The manure is then to be pumped into tankers for application as fertilizer on area fields.

Opponents have referred to the operation as a “pig factory.”

Residents fear that the waste will contaminate the Flower Creek watershed and say the pollution could destroy the state-designated cold-water trout fishery in the creek. Flower Creek, which has e-Coli issues, flows into Lake Michigan. The farm is located just two miles from the lake.

There is currently a public health advisory posted at Meinert Park Lake Michigan beach in northern Muskegon County that Little Flower Creek is not safe for body contact due to elevated bacterial counts. A posted sign at the park says Lake Michigan is safe for swimming and is tested regularly.

A poster posted at the recent meeting sponsored by ROAD and the Sierra Club.

ROAD released findings indicating that testing last summer found higher E. coli, sediment and nutrients in the creek.

A recent meeting last week about the CAFO was sponsored by ROAD and the Sierra Club at the Montague Methodist Church.

“We’re not anti-farmers,” said Amanda Robert with the Sierra Club. “We’re against industrial farming.”

“One CAFO creates as much waste as a small town of people,” Robert said. “Industrial farms are not sustainable.”

“There is a mounting body of evidence of public health risks,” said Cheryl Ruble, MD, who specializes in internal medicine and infectious diseases. Ruble, who owns property in Claybanks Township, said the “environmental and public health risks are very much intertwined.”

The doctor encouraged audience members to have their private water wells tested. She brought water well test kits that she obtained at the health department and handed them out.

Ruble said the current bacterial issues in Flower Creek “are likely from pre-existing agricultural activity. The CAFO will make it higher.”

State Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Laketon Township) was in attendance and said there is currently a three-bill package being proposed by house democrats regarding CAFOS.

Marsh said that he is abiding by all of the terms of the DEQ permit. “I’m following all of the rules that were put into place, and I will continue to do so.”

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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