Chicken farm spat plods along in Delta County

An ongoing conflict between some Delta County residents and two controversial 15,000-hen, cage-free egg-laying operations — one in operation on Powell Mesa and another planned for Redlands Mesa — had two key events last month. And a decision from a District Court judge is expected later this fall.

A number of plaintiffs in the case who live on both mesas claim that not only are the egg farms in conflict with the county’s master plan, but also that the farms are “injurious to their health,” according to complaint documents.

Delta County commissioners re-affirmed their approval of the farms in October 2012, after being compelled by District Judge Steven Patrick to re-look at the matter when neighbors brought legal action against the county.

This past May 1, the judge remanded the case to commissioners again, and at that hearing the plaintiffs group presented expert opinion to counter the key evidence county commissioners said they relied on in making their approval decision.

The plaintiffs’ experts challenged why the facility’s “tunnel ventilation mode” wasn’t in operation during testing, which they contend skewed the results of a key county-led study to show the amount of pollutants coming out of the structure was substantially diminished, by about a factor of eight.

Another expert who helped write the state swine facility air emissions standards said she believed the main environmental report in the case by Plateau Inc. of Montrose “contained severely flawed methodology.”

Further, more broad testimony was submitted contending that confined animal feeding operations so close to residential neighborhoods have a severe impact on quality of life.

“The neighbors become prisoners in their own homes, because of the pollution outside,” part of their expert testimony reads.

On May 28, Delta County Commissioners approved the two egg farms — for a third time.

According to a transcript of the hearing, Commissioner Douglas Atchley openly joked to “need a drink already” during the introduction of the case. Commissioner Mark Roeber cited the broad Right to Farm Statute, echoing an oft-repeated “Ag is ag” defense of the farms.

They did add a condition for the farms’ operator, Edwin Hostetler, to obtain the services of a professional air pollution engineer to evaluate emissions at the farms.

“The imposition of the additional conditions is an admission on behalf of the County that there is clearly an emission problem related to this facility,” the plaintiffs’ complaint reads.

Travis Jardon, one of the plaintiffs, said in an email that the county and the Hostetlers have 35 days to file their response to their brief, then after another reply a judge will make a decision. He expects that decision in August or September.


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