New technology gets demonstration at state hog farms

Saturday, July 20, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Premium Standard Farms took federal and state officials on a tour of farms Friday to show off some alternative methods for reducing environmental problems at its hog operations in the state.

Premium Standard, the nation's largest hog producer, is under pressure to come up with ways to solve pollution problems on its 17 farms in northern Missouri.

In 1999, the hog company reached an agreement with state officials to spend $25 million on new technology to solve the problems caused by its farms' hundreds of lagoons and thousands of hogs.

And last November, the Kansas City-based company agreed to pay a $350,000 civil penalty and spend up to $50 million on cleaner wastewater treatment, in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

Among those on the tour Friday were Jean Mari-Peltier, agricultural counselor for the EPA, and Bill Bryan, deputy chief counsel for the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

At the Whitetail farm in Putnam County, about five miles northeast of Unionville, the group saw a series of lagoons -- similar to a municipal wastewater treatment plant -- designed to convert the ammonia that rises from hog manure lagoons into nitrogen gas.

Other systems viewed included a water reuse system and one that could create products from hog waste, such as dry pellet fertilizer. The systems are all prototypes set up to gauge their effectiveness.

Charlie Arnott, a spokesman for Premium Standard, said the system at the Putnam County farm was turned on in June and that it was too early to say if it was working well.

"We are learning from these systems everyday," Arnott said. "We'll continue to make refinements and improvements. It has allowed us to gather insight into the problem."

Bryan said he was pleased to see the new systems but that it was far too early to know if they would solve the company's continued environmental problems at its farms.

"They have started to take a novel approach," Bryan said. "But until the monitoring is done and all the construction is complete, we won't be satisfied."

Peltier said she was on the tour to gather information as the Bush administration tries to determine the best ways to help solve environmental problems associated with large hog farms.

"One of the biggest obstacles is that this is a relatively new problem on such a large scale," Peltier said.

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