Much has already been articulated regarding the plans to build four units of 2,000 hogs each in the Beanblossom Road/Arnold Road area. Individuals who are familiar with this area will recognize that this has been an established residential area for many years. I am writing to bring further clarification to health and medical concerns that these hogs would bring to the area.
I practiced medicine in this county for my entire career of 29 years, until my retirement in 2011 for health-related issues. I ended my career as a fellowship-trained and board-certified geriatrician. It is out of my years of medical experience, along with my continued desire to protect the health and welfare of the people in this community, that I make these remarks.
A large volume of information is available regarding the environmental risks of nitrates, phosphorus, drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria, and parasites associated with large animal feeding operations. While these risks are formidable, at least a portion of these risks can be mitigated by sound management and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) oversight. At this time, the current barns by the same owner in question are not under the ODA permitting process. While the permitting process is under state supervision and regulation, I would urge our local leaders to apply any power they might have to insist on compliance with ODA regulations and the prompt retroactive closure of any existing “loopholes” that allow circumvention of an ODA permit.
The aforementioned risks should be considered in any animal operation, but in this case additional scrutiny is warranted in the Beanblossom/Arnold Road location due to the proximity of 100-plus homes within a one-square-mile radius, and the close proximity to the water intake from the Greenville Creek for the city of Greenville. Even with good management, a level of risk in my opinion will persist. Do not take these risks lightly. This is not the location for any hog operation, even with an ODA permit.
In addition to these known hazards, my focus today will be the exhaust ventilation from confinement feeding operations specifically as it relates to hogs. If the air is not continually exchanged in the hog buildings, the resultant buildup of toxic gases would be harmful and ultimately fatal for the hogs.
Everyone is aware that hog manure is malodorous, and at least some are aware of the smell that comes from manure managed in large feeding operations. The well-known unpleasant smell is accompanied by a number of gases, including ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. A study out of North Carolina found a higher incidence of asthma within three miles of large swine-feeding operations. A 2015 study out of the state of Washington clearly demonstrates a decline in respiratory function in children with asthma corresponding directly with the level of measured ammonia. Whether this decline in lung function is caused by ammonia, or other toxic gases that are also present with barn exhaust is unclear. To date, this potential toxicity has garnered only limited study, and to my knowledge, there are no significant funding sources to accelerate this research.
Beyond children, I can professionally attest that pulmonary illness and pulmonary insufficiency is common among the elderly. Citizens at the extremes of age, our children and our elderly, can be anticipated to be impacted most severely by the harmful gases that I have referenced. Many are aware that Greenville has two assisted-living facilities in northwest Greenville, approximately 1.5 miles from the proposed site.
Beyond the unpleasant odor and the loss of property value, the medical dangers, in my opinion, are of significant alarm. At this date, the toxic gases produced by such barns are poorly studied. Given these concerns, my question to our community is this: How much burden of illness should the citizens of this community be expected to bear in order for this proposed facility to exist? Who will benefit and who will be harmed? Collectively, I am asking the people of this community to stand up and stop further large hog operations on the doorstep of Greenville. The health and welfare of this lovely small town is dependent on you.
Daniel S. Berger, M.D.