Official from proposed dairy farm in Celina addresses concerns among residents

By John Bush -

CELINA — A proposed dairy farm has caused concern among local residents, but a representative from the company that will operate the facility said they have gone above and beyond what is required by the state to ensure potential issues are mitigated.

MVP Dairy, which would be located at 7124 U.S. 33 northwest of Neptune, is a partnership between VanTilburg Farms of Celina and McCarty Dairy LLC of Colby, Kansas. The company is looking to construct six freestall barns that will house 750 mature dairy cows each, which would mean it has a capacity to house 4,500 dairy cows.

Since the permit application was submitted in April, two meetings have been held for local residents who have questions or concerns about the proposed facility. One of the meetings was hosted by MVP Dairy, and another was put on by concerned citizens in Mercer County. Representatives from MVP Dairy did not attend the latter meeting, citing the fact that they answered questions previously and that another public meeting will be held in August.

Celina resident Tim Townsend, who lives about a mile east of the proposed facility, said his biggest concern is the potential for water contamination from manure runoff. His concern stemmed from a discussion with Lynn Henning, a Michigan resident and regional representative for the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project.

Henning told Townsend and other residents who attended the concerned citizens meeting that her mother- and father-in-law live within 1,000 feet of a facility similar to the one being proposed in Celina. She said they were both diagnosed with hydrogen sulfide poisoning.

Townsend said he is worried water contamination from MVP Dairy could cause this type of poisoning in residents who live near the proposed facility.

“This hydrogen sulfide poisoning is a real concern, and no one really has the answers to that,” Townsend said. “It seems like farmers get a pass when it comes to pollution.”

But Kyle VanTilburg, of VanTilburg Farms, said residents should not be concerned about water contamination or any type of poisoning.

“Obviously we are building the facility to ODA specs and standards, but we’re taking it quite a step further,” VanTilburg said. “This will be a zero discharge facility farm, and we’re putting systems in place that are quite different than a traditional dairy. Most dairies (runoff) just go into a lagoon.”

VanTilburg said solid manure from the cows, which would generate 16,800 tons per year, will be flushed every half hour each day. It will then go into a tank that will separate solids and nutrients from the rest of the liquid manure. The remaining liquid waste will go into a settling basin where solids can further settle, and then it will be sent through an anaerobic treatment cell meant to reduce waste volume and odor, as well as implement a recycling system. The water will arrive at its final destination in an irrigation pond, where it will be used for growing crops.

When asked how MVP Dairy would handle an overflow of the irrigation pond, which could be caused by excessive rainfall, VanTilburg said there are systems in place to handle this type of scenario.

“That’s all stuff the facility engineer checked for, and it was all built following ODA regulations,” he said. “The safeguards are all in place, and that’s part of the permitting process.”

Thompson said another concern is the amount of flies and odor that 4,500 dairy cows could produce. VanTilburg again had an answer for this issue, saying the farm uses innovative management practices to create an environment that minimizes fly populations and odors.

He said the barns will have ventilation and systems to flush manure from the barns multiple times each day. The reduced presence of manure and constant air movement will limit fly breeding, he said, and by the time the manure goes through the entire treatment system it will be “virtually odor free.”

As for the cows living completely indoors, VanTilburg said the side of the barns will be constructed with a transparent polycarbonate siding that allows natural light in the buildings, “creating a positive environment for the cows and a negative environment for the pests.”

Another open house and public meeting on MVP Dairy will be held Aug. 8 at the Mercer County Central Services Building, located at 220 W. Livingston St., Celina. The open house will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the public meeting will start at 7 p.m.

By John Bush

Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.

Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.

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