By ANDREA VARGO
Testimony from both sides of the Metro Dairy feedlot expansion issue was heard Thursday by the Wright County Planning and Zoning Commission.
After hearing from the people who wished to speak about issues, the commission decided to delay a final decision on the feedlot expansion to Aug. 20.
Any additional written materials submitted by either side must be in the hands of the commission by July 16.
Virgil Scherping, owner of Metro Dairy, opened the public hearing with a statement about the economic value his facility brings to the county.
He said his feedstuffs alone bring over $600,000 into the Howard Lake area, plus 11 full-time employees, hired truckers, and taxes.
Scherping's attorney, Greg Fontaine, told the commission the feedlot meets the criteria for a conditional use permit.
He said, "If you meet the requirements, you are entitled to a permit."
"There are no traffic problems; we are satisfied that property values are not injured," said Fontaine.
Metro Dairy is the most studied dairy in the state, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concluded there are no issues that are a problem, he said.
There are some nuisance issues, he said.
The health risk value for hydrogen sulfide is 65 parts per billion (ppb), according to Fontaine.
He said studies have shown the number to be 650 ppb, but then to allow for a huge margin of safety the number is factored down by 10 to 65 ppb.
The dairy facility has an average of 13.9 ppb, which is well below any of the guidelines, he said.
Fontaine told the commission members to look at evidence, rather than generalized concerns when they make their decision on the conditional use permit.
Testimony from the assembled neighbors and other concerned citizens addressed the odor problem coming from the facility.
After listening to many of the neighbors and residents surrounding the dairy tell about their experiences with the odor, commission member Bob Adams asked Fontaine, "How smelly is 13.9 ppb?"
Fontaine said, the human nose can start picking up the oder at 5 ppb in calm conditions.
George Bakeberg, commission member, asked another of Scherping's experts Bob Wolf of Agro-Tech Consulting, what would be offensive to the human nose.
Wolf said, "Each individual is different. What is offensive to one person is not even detected by another."
Adams asked if hydrogen sulfide is the only gas that causes offensive odors.
Wolf replied that there is a wide range of gasses that cause odor problems.
Julie Jansen of Renville County, told the commission that studies show that .5 ppb can be detected by people.
Margaret Millerbernd, a Waverly resident, told the commission that all her holidays have been ruined by the odor coming from the dairy.
Gary Millerbernd, who said he works with compacted soils, told the commission he felt the lagoons would leak in the future.
The natural freeze and thaw cycles, plus rain, would eventually destroy the integrity of the sides of the lagoons, he said.