ST. MARYS — Several people addressed concerns to representatives of the Ohio Department of Agriculture during a public meeting held at the St. Marys Township Hall on Tuesday night.
Wilker Eggs and Grain Farm, located at 10675 Tri Township Road in rural St. Marys, submitted a draft permit to operate and install a second building for laying chickens in October to add 252,720 layers (chickens) to its location. The farm is operated by Ronald and Deborah Wilker.
However, the process of applying for the permit includes allowing residents to comment through writing and also allows them to request a public hearing. Kevin Elder, chief of the Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting at the ODA, said that a minimum of 20 requests must be made for a public meeting and that 25 requests were made.
Kate Anderson, president of the Guardians of Grand Lake St. Marys, was one of four speakers who spoke in opposition to the request.
Anderson said such requests should not be approved until issues that affect watershed areas are addressed.
“The Guardians are in strong opposition to this permit and any future permits until a sustainable and clean [Grand Lake St. Marys] is available to local communities and tourists,” Anderson said.
Anderson said with an ever-growing livestock inventory in the watershed, that there is little hope of Grand Lake ever being restored. She also cited runoff waste from farms to causing several other problems, including loss in real estate value, taxpayers subsidizing waste management for livestock producers, and losses in tourism dollars.
Other residents said that waste produced on livestock farms in the area have caused other problems.
“I am a close neighbor with two acres of footage,” Peggy Sheaks said.
Sheaks said flies have been a constant problem. She said she had placed as many as six fly catchers and that they are never enough to stop the problem.
Other issues cited included damage to air and water quality, odor, pollution, and a lowered water table, according to the requests provided by the ODA.
The Wilker farm had been able to operate without the permit previously because it had operated under the required number of chickens needed for a permit. The new addition would put it over the threshold.
Comments can also be delivered or mailed to the ODA’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting office in Reynoldsburg until Tuesday.