By Leslie Radford: CNJ staff writer
Members of a Parmer County church have raised concern over an application for a dairy permit in the Lariat area.
The proposed dairy will be built on the south side of U.S. 70-84 on Parmer County Road DD.
Concerns raised during a June 20 public hearing in Farwell included health issues, problems with flies and waste water retention, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which conducted the hearing.
“We hold meetings if there is significant interest among the residents concerning a possible dairy,” said Jody Henneke with the TCEQ’s office of public assistance. “There seemed to be a number of locals who expressed concern about the location the dairy might be built.”
St. Johns Lutheran Church pastor David Symm lives next door to the church, which is a mile from the proposed dairy site.
“My main concern was for the health of my family,” Symm said. “Four out of six of us have asthma and there’s already enough of a challenge with the winds we have here.”
Symm said the dust that comes with cattle operations such as a dairy obviously can not be avoided, but the fact that the dairy was so close to their home may be a respiratory hazard.
He was also concerned with potential health problems at the church’s preschool.
“(Members of the church) did some research and we found the E. coli can be airborne. That poses another problem on the health of our children as well as members of the church,” he said.
However, the Center for Disease Control’s Web site did not mention the possibility of contracting E. coli through the air.
According to the Web site, “Most illness (from E. coli) has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef; Person-to-person contact in families and child care centers are also an important mode of transmission; Infection can also occur after drinking raw milk and after swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water.”
Lori Haseloff attends St. Johns and has a daughter enrolled the church’s preschool. She said her family farms in the Lariat area and realizes the business potential the dairy presents. But she has concerns about the maintenance of the operation about the proximity of the dairy to the church.
“This isn’t exactly the atmosphere we want to go to church in or send our daughter to school,” Haseloff said.
Mark Williams of Farwell owns the land for the site of the proposed 6,800-head dairy. He said the engineers of the dairy were able to respond to individual questions effectively by telling them exactly how the dust would be controlled by regular pen maintenance and the entire process would be kept to code regulated by the TCEQ.
Henneke said the state has no jurisdiction over zoning. She said the proposed dairy site is in an unincorporated area.
Originally, Williams said there was a prospective dairyman that would have operated the dairy. However, he said last week circumstances changed and he thinks the dairy will be built and sold to a dairy operation.
“At this point, we’re not sure what’s going to happen exactly,” he said. “We’re just waiting for the OK from TCEQ.”
Henneke said the TCEQ board is reviewing the application and will likely have an answer within a few weeks.