July 30, 1997

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Pig farmers squealing about regulations

Town with 7 pigs for every person fears drinking water pollution

By ANTHONY BREZNICAN

The Associated Press

CLEARVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- Maryland farmer Tom Chiou says he just wants to be a good neighbor.

Residents say Chiou is welcome in their south-central Pennsylvania village, but not his 7,000 pigs.

Chiou wants to build three hog farms in a town that 2,000 porkers already call home. If he suceeds, Clearville will have seven pigs for every person.

With the typical hog producing four times as much waste as a human, residents are fighting mad about the odor and mess they fear the animals will create.

The dispute highlights what some say is the lack of oversight in a business where one farm alone can produce 4.5 million gallons of manure in a year -- enough to fill 90 water towers.

One state lawmaker wonders whether environmental regulators should be poking around more at pig farms.

Residents cheered recently when state Senate Majority Leader Robert Jubelirer recently announced he opposed the new farms planned within five miles of Clearville.

But local farmers changed their minds when Jubelirer, whose district includes Clearville, said he could only regulates the industry with new waste disposal guidelines.

"I think it's wrong to put those farms so near the town, but the cost of putting in new equipment on my farm or paying to haul waste farther would put me out of business," said Russell Kegg, 62, owner of 500 pigs near Bedford.

Farmers like Keggs, who once opposed the construction of the new farms, are now opposing neighbors who fear the irresponsible disposal hog waste will make the community unlivable.

Currently, most hog farmers store waste in large lagoons until it can be spread over farmers' fields as fertilizer. But small pig farms have begun closing down in favor of larger farms that can contain more than a thousand swine.

Residents around Clearville fear the huge lagoons used by large farms will create an unbearable stench and pollute water wells that are already tainted by faulty septic systems and fertilizer.

"Don't tell me that these farms won't make it worse. The environment can't take millions of gallons of waste when their isn't the land to handle it,'' said Seri Kern, 47, who lives one mile from a Clearville pig farm.

Residents opposing the farms point to a North Carolina lagoon that collapsed in 1995 as proof the industry needs stricter regulation. That lagoon spilled 22 million gallons of manure into the New River.

Complaints of pig farms have increased since then, with one Cambria County homeowner taking a neighboring farmer to court over the smell of the farmer's hogs.

Tom Chiou, the Maryland farmer, said he has never received opposition like this before, but will comply with whatever guidelines the state provides.

"Disposal, the lagoons, and everything we do is by the book,'' Chiou said.

Chiou said he looks forward to being a ''good neighbor'' to the people in Clearville by meeting with representatives from Jubelirer's office while he continues planning the construction of his new farms.

Chris Novak, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection said it is impossible to tell now whether the large amounts of hogs will harm the area.

''As long as they follow our manure management guidelines concerning the construction of lagoons and soil nutrient management then that should be appropriate,'' she said.