ECCSCM October Newsletter
Nov 2010 – Bank takes over Vreba-Hoff facilities. According to an article in the Adrian Telegram Nov 18, Rabo Agrifinance "has taken over ownership of the Vreba-Hoff Dairy facilities near Hudson following negotiations to avoid foreclosure on a $55 million loan. Rabo Agrifinance Inc. had ownership of the Vreba-Hoff properties transferred on Nov. 12 to one of its business entities, Southern Michigan Dairies LLC. The bank has been running Vreba-Hoff I and II and the Waldron Dairy since then." By mid-November, V-H 1 and Waldron Dairies were shut down, all cows and operations consolidated at V-H 1 facility on US-127.
Video: Nov 3, 2010 – several fields in Hudson Township are sprayed black with liquid manure, before predicted rainfall. This practice often leads to contaminated water in field drain tiles, which pour into streams. Awful stench filled the car. Neighbors downwind are suffering today.
Oct 2010 – Foreclosure action against Vreba-Hoff
After a decade of violations, of trial and error and mismanagement of waste, of manure discharges and impaired streams, it's possible that Vreba-Hoff dairy CAFOs in Hudson will be shutting down soon.
The mortgage company Rabo Agrifinance has filed a foreclosure action to recover a $55 million debt and to foreclose on real estate mortgages and personal property. See Adrian Daily Telegram article. Rabo Agrifinance filed for foreclosure after the state of Michigan put a $580,000 lien on Vreba-Hoff properties in Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties. The Michigan court ruled earlier this month that Vreba-Hoff had failed to pay back fines and violated manure treatment standards agreed to in a previous court order.
Two Rabo lawsuits
Rabo lists a $14.4 million loan against Waldron Dairy, Vreba-Hoff 1, Vreba-Hoff 2, and in Ohio, Blue Stream, Wild Cat and Williams Dairy Farm, as well as another $2 million loan against Waldron, Blue Stream, Wild Cat and Williams Dairies. More loans cover farmland, cattle and other personal property, including equipment.
A hearing on the foreclosures was scheduled for Oct 19 in federal district court, Grand Rapids, but has been temporarily postponed.
State of Michigan lawsuit – injunction in place
In the ongoing Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) lawsuit against Vreba-Hoff, the 30th Circuit Court on Oct 18 issued an injunction ordering Vreba-Hoff to “immediately cease irrigating effluent in violation of treatment standards.” Vreba-Hoff was also ordered to keep manure pits at proper levels. Since Vreba-Hoff has violated its own treatment standards for years, the facilities may well have to reduce cow numbers to control manure levels in lagoons.
Early in October, the court filed a $580,000 lien against Vreba-Hoff’s two CAFOs in Lenawee and Hillsdale counties after the court found that Vreba-Hoff failed to pay back fines and violated the manure treatment standards, with more than 700 violations over many days in 2008-2009 for irrigating polluted wastewater.
In court, groundwater concerns were also addressed. Vreba-Hoff’s recent hydro-geologic study to determine if groundwater contamination was present was characterized as “inadequate” by the state of Michigan’s lawyer. The state is concerned that with all their financial problems Vreba-Hoff will not re-do the study and will not install the groundwater monitoring wells that were required. October 2010 - Judge finds Vreba-Hoff in violation of previous Orders; decision on de-populating dairy herd coming soon. Adrian Daily Telegram reports, "A court decision that could decide whether the two Vreba-Hoff dairies near Hudson remain open could be handed down as soon as an Oct. 18 hearing in Ingham County. Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment is asking a judge to order a reduction of 600 cows a month until the dairies meet standards set in permits for their manure treatment systems." (see full article)
August - Bridgewater Dairy buys Chesterfield (now called Oakshade Dairy) out of foreclosure. Chesterfield left over 20 million gallons of manure in pits, according to the Bridgewater website.
August - Vreba-Hoff misses Aug 23 deadline for payment of past fines. Also, court hearing on the new lawsuit (see July, below) scheduled for September 20.
July - Sturgis Journal reports Vreba-Hoff's business arm, Midwest Ag Investments, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Journal article quotes Peter van der Vegt, director of business development for Vreba-Hoff, asserting, "the bankruptcy is an opportunity for Midwest Ag Investments LLC to protect its assets, and the bankruptcy is a part of its restructuring plan."
July 19 - New Court Action against Vreba-Hoff - Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) files a new Amended Complaint against Vreba-Hoff with the 30th Circuit Court citing numerous, continuing violations – liquid waste still doesn't meet treatment standards; Vreba-Hoff has not had a certified operator of its treatment system since April 2009; Vreba-Hoff continues unauthorized dumping of waste in the satellite lagoon on Packard Rd, an illegal groundwater discharge. DNRE requests the court to order "depopulation of the dairy operation" if treatment standards are not met. DNRE also asks the Court to order Vreba-Hoff to hire a certified operator for the "Earthmentor" system immediately, to enjoin Vreba-Hoff to stop hauling waste to the satellite lagoon and, as ordered previously, to close the lagoon down.
See DNRE Fact Sheet on the current state of Michigan's lawsuit against Vreba-Hoff.
See the full DNRE Amended Complaint.
Vreba-Hoff’s “satellite” lagoon on Packard Rd noted in the new Court Action – (left) March 19, not shut down, well after March 8 deadline; (middle) May 19, still there, filling up with unauthorized Vreba-Hoff dumping; (right) May 30, photo from far side, showing gap bulldozed shut and hauler dumping manure, foaming at the corner.
May 11 - after heavy rains, massive runoff from Hoffland manure application sites. Manure draglines are still in place in the fields along Tomer Rd.
May 6 – Hoffland CAFO draglining at Wheeler and Haley Rds; also applying along Tomer Road, with liquid waste ponding on already saturated ground. Draglining pumps liquid manure direct from lagoons through hoses to the field.
5-6-2010 - wheel tracks full of Hoffland liquid manure
April 23-24 - strong emissions from Hartland Farms manure application – before predicted rainfall of 1" – along Cadmus Rd east of Hughes; Bakerlads also spraying along Cadmus west of Morey Hwy.
4-24-2010 – Bakerlads black manure field along Cadmus Rd, in rain
March - With warmer days and thaw, winter application of manure runs off fields. On March 3, blackwater from Bakerlads field tile flows to South Branch of the River Raisin.
3-3-10, black manure at far end of Bakerlads field runs off and reaches tile system; blackwater flows from tile into South Branch of the River Raisin