Hog farm given permission to expand

A Red Deer County hog farm has been given permission to expand despite odour concerns from neighbours.

A Red Deer County hog farm has been given permission to expand despite odour concerns from neighbours.

The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) approved an application by Spruit Farms Ltd. to go from an 800-sow farrow-to-wean operation to 500 sow farrow-to-finish. Owners Edwin and Sandra Spruit also intend to extend existing barns and add a new one at their farm about five km south of Red Deer next to the C&E Trail.

Almost a dozen nearby property owners sent letters to the NRCB raising concerns, including: potential odour problems, effect on property values, impact on water supplies and manure truck traffic.

Several pointed out the project will double the amount of manure produced.

In response to these issues, the Spruits reduced the size of a barn, proposed more manure storage to reduce truck traffic and to add another 300 acres of spreading fields to the existing 1,000 acres to reduce concentrations. Only 525 acres is required under regulations.

The Spruits proposed in their application to change ventilation systems to reduce odour and, if required, spread straw on the manure lagoon twice a year to reduce smell.

Approving officer Scott Cunningham addresses neighbours’ concerns in his approval. Odours will likely increase with the expansion, he notes, adding that setbacks from nearby residences, springs and water bodies fall within the separation distances outline in the Agricultural Operation Practices Act.

Spruit Farms also meets the act’s requirements for manure management and groundwater protection.

Cunningham concludes that the proposed expansion will have “acceptable effects on the economy and community, and will be an appropriate use of land. …”

Among conditions is that the Spruits continue to monitor water wells and to cease construction if the water table comes within one metre or less of the concrete liners of the barns.

As to property values, Cunningham says the NRCB has stated previously “the land value effects on any specific parcel of land are not relevant to the consideration of an application under AOPA by either the approval officer or the board.”

Neighbours have until Feb. 20 to appeal the NRCB approval.

Edwin Spruit said they have gone beyond the requirements in a number of areas to reduce the impact of their operation.

For instance, they have much more land already lined up than required for manure spreading and are improving barn ventilation, among other improvements.

Smell during fall manure spreading lasts only a few days and can be reduced by working manure into the ground, he said.

“I understand the neighbours’ complaints and the neighbours’ issues, that’s why I’ve tried to address them as best as I could,” he said.

Coincidentally, county council debated a proposal by a landowner to subdivide 19 nearby acres into nine country residential lots on Tuesday.

The subdivision would be located about 800 metres from the Spruits’ farm.

Under the county’s Municipal Development Plan, land is not to be rezoned residential if it falls within 1.6 km of an existing confined feeding operation.

Council unanimously rejected the application.

“We can’t impact our existing livestock operations,” said Mayor Jim Wood. “I can see nothing but conflict (arising) from this particular application.”

County council has previously expressed support for the Spruits’ expansion plans.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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