News Archives 2008, 2007

2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2006-2005 2004 - the beginnng


Dec 31, 2008 - last year's tally of offenses, degradation: 65 violations and unlawful discharges from CAFOs in our area during 2008. (See details of these violations)

Nov 6 - Mediator recommends Vreba-Hoff fiines of $223,500 for multiple violations of the 30th Circuit Court's Interim Order. The Dispute Resolution Facilitator (DRF) established by the Interim Order notes that the Order required Vreba-Hoff to construct a partial-treatment system for animal wastes, and pay $180,000 in penalties for previous violations when the "Defendant [Vreba-Hoff] presents an engineer's certification that the Earth Mentor System is operating as designed...Defendant has not presented the certification." Total fines owed by Vreba-Hoff are now $403,500. The DRF Report cites at least 10 violations, some continuing for many days, including: overflow of a manure pit (Sept. 7, 2007), discharging to Medina Drain; 3 other illegal discharges to streams; failure to remove cows as required when waste storage was insufficient; lack of freeboard marking; missed deadlines for construction of the treatment building and sand separation devices; missed deadline for operation of treatment cells at both Vreba-Hoff 1 and 2 facilities in Hudson.
--Report and Recommendations of Dispute Resolution Facilitator to the 30th Judicial Circuit Court, Ingham County (November 6, 2008)

Oct 29 - CAFOs fined $213,000 for road damage by Lenawee County Road Commission, 2004-2008 -- including $178,000 in fines against Vreba-Hoff for damage to Dillon Hwy and Packard Rd. New Flevo CAFO paid $35,000 for damage to Forrister Rd.

Oct 14 - Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society on Oprah Winfrey show with agribusiness reps on California's Prop. 2. which would abolish confinement of farm animals in extreme conditions -- no room to turn around or stretch their legs or wings. See NYTimes editorial, Oct. 9 (link below).

Oct 9 - New York Times editorial supports California's Propostion 2, the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.

Sept 24 - MDA cites Agri-Flite Services, a crop dusting company, with violations of state and federal pesticide laws after spraying July 30 of Headline Fungicide on Hartland Farms cornfield drifted onto neighbors' property. Several residents became ill, and MDA testing found the active ingredient of Headline, pyraclostrobin, on the residents' property and crop fields. MDA "has initiated the appropriate enforcement action with Agri-Flite Services."

Sept 24 - Government Report Links Factory Farms to Harmful Air Emissions, Water Pollution - A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study released
today says that large factory farms, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), can emit dangerous levels of airborne and waterborne pollutants. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said, “This GAO study confirms that the Bush Administration’s plan to exempt industrial sized animal feeding operations from emissions reporting requirements is nothing more than a favor to Big Agribusiness at the expense of the public health and communities living near these facilities.” See full report.

Sept 10 - Concerned about the water usage at proposed Vreba-Hoff dairy in Ogden Twp, Lenawee Co. Commissioners unanimously backed a well protection resolution asking the Legislature to expand existing laws that govern high-capacity wells. Limited groundwater supplies in southeast Lenawee County leave homeowners vulnerable if a dairy or other large water user moves in. Commissioners passed a resolution two years ago asking the state for a moratorium on permitting new dairies. See full article in Adrian Daily Telegram.

July 7 - After 3 years and repeated air pollution violations, State Line Farms in Morenci will shut down its swine barns at Ridgeville Rd, removing all animals by Nov. 9, and pay $28,000 in fines, under a Consent Order negotiated with Michigan's DEQ. Consent Order and details are posted for 30-day public comment.

June 30 - For the first time, the Michigan DEQ denies a proposed NPDES permit for a CAFO. Bustorf Dairy in St. Joseph County was denied a permit after very strong testimony by the township, local businesses and residents, Republicans for Environmental Protection, and the Huron Potawatomi Tribe that demonstrated “considerable disagreement on the validity of the assertions made by the applicant” regarding social and economic benefits to the community. See DEQ decision and Kalamazoo Gazette article.

May 22 - Pulic hearing in Hudson on Waldron, Vreba-Hoff permits was packed with neighbors, downstream residents, telling their stories of CAFO pollution, asking DEQ to deny NPDES permits to both CAFOs. See Adrian Telegram article. Written comments can be emailed until May 29 to Mike Bitondo, DEQ:
Several speakers described horrendous emissions from Chesterfield Dairy, Lyons, OH, which continues, since early April to dump and spray waste in Michigan fields.

HUDSON MIDDLE SCHOOL AUDITORIUM -- 771 North Maple Grove Avenue, Hudson, MI
The hearings are for public comment -- PLEASE COME AND SPEAK, OR HAND IN WRITTEN COMMENTS. Waldron Dairy (formerly Mericam, at Camden & Meridian Rds) is owned by Vreba-Hoff and plans major expansion. More liquid manure on tile-drained fields, more pits.
Both hearings will be held on the same evening, Waldron hearing first, then Vreba-Hoff. DEQ notes that the hearings are "an opportunity for the public to be heard, DEQ does not comment or answer questions. The hearing is recorded and DEQ will prepare a written response to comments. All comments will be considered but only comments applicable to the permit will receive a written response."
See public notice and more details, including links to draft permits for Waldron, for Vreba-Hoff.
Or email Mike Bitondo, DEQ, for details:

week of April 14 - neighbors report Chesterfield Dairy in Lyons, OH (which receives Vreba-Hoff manure) is transporting manure back to Michigan, spraying in Seneca Twp. Numerous complaints from residents to ECCSCM and local officials.

March 27 -DEQ cites Hartland Farms and Bakerlads for illegal discharges of manure (see March 3 below).

March 12 - For 7 months, Vreba-Hoff has violated repeated DEQ orders to immediately close a manure storage structure that failed and overflowed last summer (ordered Aug 24, 2007, Sept 17, 2007, Jan 22, 2008, and again March 12, 2008). When will they comply? This manure lagoon lies adjacent to the source of a tributary of Bean Creek -- the tributary was added to Michigan's impaired water list in 2004, after repeated manure discharges by Vreba-Hoff. Think of the consequences as Lake Erie headwaters are polluted, year after year.

March 7 - Hoosiers for Sustainable Agriculture serves Notice of Intent to Sue the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Vreba-Hoff CAFO for failure to protect a rare colony of Mitchell's Satry butterfly, one of the rarest species in the world. See full press release. The Notice sets forth violations of the federal Endangered Species Act resulting from Vreba-Hoff’s plan to build “Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC” next to the fragile Pigeon River habitat. Mitchell’s Satyr lives only in a rare type of fen, at only 2 small locations in Indiana and only 13 small locations in Michigan. Under the Endangered Species Act, when proposed development threatens a listed species, the FWS has a duty to ensure that a Habitat Conservation Plan is prepared and approved before construction begins. However, in this instance FWS refused to exercise its duty even though the planned Toll-Tail Dairy will likely extinguish the Pigeon River colony of Mitchell’s Satyr. Ironically, the FWS website lists “livestock production” as one of the top threats to Mitchell’s Satyr.

March 10 - DEQ cites Waldron Dairy (Vreba-Hoff owned) for multiple violations, including 2 illegal discharges of manure to Bean Creek Watershed after application of wastes to frozen and snow-covered ground.

March 3 - rain started late morning. Almost immediately, Hartland Farms manure was discharging to Bear Creek from Hughes Hwy application last week, Bakerlads manure was discharging to South Branch of the River Raisin from Cadmus & Morey application yesterday, road is flooded, and Bakerlads are still spreading, in the rain.
3-3-08 Bakerlads waste running off the manure-black field to Cadmus Rd, drains to S.Branch River Raisin

Feb 13-18 - Waldron Dairy sprays manure black on snow fields along Ridgeville Rd before thaw and predicted rain. Runoff from these fields will flow to Lime Creek.
Waldron Dairy spraying manure 2-13-08, Ridgeville Rd; runoff and ponding two days later, 2-15-08
"When a chronic polluter spreads thousands of gallons of liquid manure on snow covered frozen ground 3 days before a predicted thaw and rain when is it a criminal violation? We had a high on 2/17 of 48 degrees and .62" of rain according to the Weather Underground for Adrian. And once again it was before a holiday weekend."

Feb 7 - major flooding in northern Ohio, southern Michigan after snow thaw and heavy rains. Near Lyons, OH, manure application on frozen, flooded ground, just east of CR-M and CR-13.

Jan 28, 2008 - Waldron Dairy CAFO spray-applying liquid manure on frozen ground, as temps warm and rain starts to fall, violating every recommended "guideline" for good ag practices. Only outcome possible: contaminated liquid will flow to tile-inlets and pollute Bean Creek tributaries.
1-28-08, Waldron Dairy spraying manure, black field just before rain, at Burt & Seeley Rds.

Jan 22 - DEQ orders Vreba-Hoff "to cease the discharge immediately" from a tile at South Medina Drain, first noticed discharging in October, 2007.


Dec 3 - Vreba-Hoff fined $8,000 for dam safety violations under a Consent Agreement with DEQ's Land and Water Management Division, after construction of four waste lagoons/dams at the dairy facilities without required dam permits.

Nov 21, day before Thanksgiving - Bakerlads Farms/MSU Center of Excellence discharges waste to South Branch of the River Raisin after surface application of slurry/solids for several days with no incorporation, no crop in field. Blissfield and Deerfield get their drinking water downstream.
11-21-07 - Bakerlads manure runoff, ponding

Oct 26 - DEQ cites Vreba-Hoff for numerous violations of its Interim Consent Order, including land application of wastes to fields without sufficient phosphorus data; land application of contaminated sand bedding, bypassing sand separation requirement; improper composting -- "the current practice of simply piling solids and later land applying certainly does not meet the industry standards for composting"; removal of check dams, failure of silt fencing, expired construction storm water permit; failure to transport off-site the waste of "excess" cows at the dairy operations.
DEQ Notice Letter (October 26, 2007)

October- pits and more pits at Vreba-Hoff. That's the solution to industrial dairy waste? Watch the farmland disappear.  These are "farms"? Looks like mountaintop removal mining. These sites are the origins of 3 streams, the headwaters of Lake Erie. (see more pit & "compost" photos)
pits10-31-07photocredit photocredit
10-31-07 Vreba-Hoff 1 (left) and Vreba-Hoff 2 (right).

Oct 17 - penalties mount for Vreba-Hoff --$164,000 owed as of Oct 17, with 2 ongoing violations--1) storage structure levels are not yet marked as required; 2) untreated manure is stored in settling basins of "treatment" system.  Each of these violations carries a stipulated penalty of $500/day, "which is continuing to accrue." (DEQ letter to Vreba-Hoff, Oct. 17, 2007).

Sept 26 - Attorney General's office orders Vreba-Hoff to pay $141,500 in penalties for multiple violations over the last two months; also orders removal of 350 cows.

Sept 13 - DEQ notes "Vreba-Hoff has allowed conditions to further deteriorate to the point the Dairy Operations now pose a grave threat to public health and the environment." (see pdf of full DEQ letter)

Sept 13-ECCSCM applauds MSU's pasture-based dairy initiative. MSU develops pasture-based dairy and markets for pasture-based products (see press release). With a $3.5 million grant, MSU will convert the conventional dairy operation at Kellogg Biological Station to a pasture-based program over the next two years. "A 120-cow milking herd will be maintained on an intensively managed rotational grazing system and on a replicated plot-based pasture system. A portion of the milk produced at KBS will be used for production of cheese at the MSU Dairy Plant."  The grant also will fund "work to develop an improved supply chain – processing, distribution and marketing programs – for pasture-raised animals."

Sept 9- Vreba-Hoff manure lagoon overflows at Vreba-Hoff 1, discharges manure into South Medina Drain. DEQ water tests find E. coli levels at 370,000/100ml in the headwaters of South Medina Drain; 2 days later, E. coli is still greater than 10,000/100 ml. On Sept 10, DEQ finds concrete lagoon still over freeboard; DEQ orders Vreba-Hoff "to take actions to prevent further discharges from this structure." DEQ finds the CAFO is "1,687,000 gal. over freeboard capacity in their storage structures."  DEQ also notes, "They have not removed cows from the facility as required by the CO [Consent Order] if they go over freeboard."

Aug 24 - DEQ notes "a grave situation" at Vreba-Hoff facilities: "The situation at Vreba-Hoff's two Hudson-area dairies appears to have deteriorated substantially this week." On Aug 23, a concrete storage structure failed at V-H 1, leading to an illegal groundwater discharge. In the last month, DEQ cited Vreba-Hoff for more than 15 violations, including 3 illegal discharges to South Medina Drain and to Durfee Creek Extension, multiple freeboard violations, failure to meet required deadlines, etc. (See complete list of July/August violations cited by DEQ)

weekend Aug 24-26 - Vreba-Hoff hauling tanker after tanker of manure from Hudson through Morenci to Chesterfield Dairy in Lyons, OH, after rains put lagoons at risk for overflow.  Vreba-Hoff STILL hasn't got its manure situation under control; it's almost a year of overful, near-overflow conditions. Routine rain is an "emergency" situation? See State Line Observer article, Aug. 29: "A lot of manure passed through Morenci over the weekend as Vreba-Hoff Dairy sent dozens of tanker loads to a storage lagoon east of town..."

June 7, 2007 - At last! Court orders Vreba-Hoff to pay $180,000 in fines for violations, orders volume limitations on waste and construction of new waste treatment system, prohibits new barns for 10 years.  (see DEQ press release;Ingham County Interim Court Order;Settlement Agreement) After years of pollution, the bad news is: the new "treatment" will not function until next year, if then; and the old "treatment" doesn't work.  Which means neighbors and streams will suffer Vreba-Hoff business as usual -- pollution for many many more months.

May 18 - Durfee Creek, a stream on Michigan's 303(d) list of impaired waters, is still foul and blackish-red, a month after manure discharges from Vreba-Hoff. The stream still has slim to non-existent buffers, and today--brush removal ! by the Lenawee County Drain Commission.  How can this stream recover, with continuing abuse and degradation? In its Notice Letter citing multiple discharges over several days, DEQ noted the pivot irrigator "travels through a low wet area where irrigation of waste easily flows into the creek." The letter also noted the stream "was very dark in color and had a strong agricultural waste odor...Several areas of obvious overland flow and erosion from the irrigated field to the creek were noted. Very little to no vegetated buffer exists along the creek."  (DEQ Notice Letter to Vreba-Hoff, April 11, 2007)
Durfee1  Durfee2
5-18-07 --(left) Durfee Creek, black water, at Dillon Hwy;and (right) the thin green line is Durfee Creek's pitiful buffer, with heaps of back-hoe-ripped shrubs from Drain Commission "brush removal" -- there's that much less rootedness to hold soils and stop manure flows to this impaired waterway.

May 4 - Vreba-Hoff Crisis-- 8 months of overfull, overflowing lagoons, unlawful discharges, and still no action from the court on Vreba-Hoff violations.  Aerial photos on May 4 show the north lagoon at Vreba-Hoff on US-127 overflowing into adjacent calf hutch area. Other photos show overfull lagoons at both facilities.
north photocredit  overflow
Vreba-Hoff north lagoon, US-127, overflowing, 5-4-07   close-up, manure water flowing into calf hutches

April 20 - Len. Co. Road Commission asks Vreba-Hoff to pay $177,000 for road damage. "The cost of repairing three miles of gravel roads that Vreba-Hoff Dairy used to haul manure to a lagoon on Packard Road during the spring thaw is expected to be more than three times the $55,000 bond the dairy posted in January for a haul route permit." See full article in Adrian Daily Telegram.

March - April - 23 new violations at Vreba-Hoff facilities, since Jan 1, 2007, documented in DEQ Notice Letters of March 14, March 21, April 11.

March 12 - Vreba-Hoff contempt hearings drag on and on.Thaw has begun, fields are saturated, road weight-limit laws in effect.  How, where, will Vreba-Hoff dispose of these millions and millions of gallons of sewage?

Jan 26 - ECCSCM joins Lenawee County Commissioners and asks for a moratorium on CAFOs, as well as an immediate halt to new construction of CAFOs and lagoons in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties, mandatory groundwater permits, mandatory monitoring wells around all new and existing CAFOs, a limit to the amount of CAFO waste applied in each watershed. and effective waste treatment of CAFO waste. See full press release.

Jan 19 - DEQ, Attorney General's office ask the 30th Judicial Circuit Court to find Vreba-Hoff in contempt of court for ongoing violations of the Consent Judgment of 2004. Petition asks for reduction in herd size until Vreba-Hoff can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Court and DEQ that it can properly manage all wastes produced by the dairies without harming water resources of the state. See DEQ press release.

Jan 10, 2007 - Lenawee County Commissioners vote unanimously (8-0) for a moratorium on CAFO construction, for pollution bonds for CAFOs, for on-site wastewater treatment similar to those for municipalities. See Resolution.

Jan 9, 2007 -Vreba-Hoff lagoons full, at the point of breaching. Vreba-Hoff began massive emergency dumping, pivot-spraying of manure at multiple locations late this afternoon, in violation of a court judgment prohibiting application in winter. DEQ officials today confirmed the CAFOs are taking evasive action and that they are aware of the violations. (see stench alerts for more details). Jan 10 - dumping continues - ECCSCM calls for an injunction to stop the illegal dumping, and asks DEQ to shut the CAFO down (after years of mis-management and repeated violations, at least 75 documented before this current onslaught of violations)