Proposed hog farm raises evironmental impact, quality of life questions for residents

Chuck Wickenhofer
An overhead view of Grahams island State Park, located a few miles from a proposed hog farm operation that is in the review process with the Dept. of Health.

An application filed by Grand Prairie Agriculture to start a hog farm in Pelican Township, about 10 miles east of Devils Lake, has led to questions and concerns from Lake Region residents about how such an operation could impact the area.

Folks in the region are split on the idea of a hog farm near the city, with many citing the smell such a farm would generate, along with the potential negative environmental consequences in what is primarily a tourist destination for anglers.

“With all the land in ND why put a huge animal operation so close to a world class fishing lake?” one resident asked.

Others see the economic benefit and aren’t concerned about potential issues associated with the proposed hog farm.

“If a hog farm is run right you don't smell it,” another resident said. “And it’s a dual purpose. Fertilizer for the crops and jobs for members of the community.”

Though the hog farm tentatively planned for Pelican Township is smaller than similar operations around the state, there are common environmental concerns with any such operation, including air and water quality concerns.

In North Dakota, air quality is not addressed when permits are considered by the Dept. of Health. In the case of the proposed farm that may come to the Lake Region, it’s unclear whether officials from that department would conduct an on-site inspection prior to approval of the permit submitted by Grand Prairie Agriculture.

Water quality, of course, is a major concern generally and specifically in Devils Lake. Some residents are concerned that the lake, which has been flooding since 1993, could possibly become contaminated.

From a 2015 report from CNBC: “About 68 percent of the nation's lakes, reservoirs and ponds and more than half of its rivers and streams are impaired, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, meaning they don't meet one or more water-quality standards and are considered too polluted for the intended use. The main culprit: agriculture, including poorly located or poorly managed animal-feeding operations and misapplication of chemicals and fertilizer, EPA reports show.”

The period for concerned citizens to comment on the application to the Dept. of Health remains open. The approval process is expected to take anywhere from six months to about a year.