St Paul, MN (KROC AM News) - A setback for a planned large hog facility in Fillmore County, a victory for opponents of the proposal.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine Tuesday announced his decision to deny a general permit for the proposed Catalpa swine facility near Mabel. The proposal called for a swine farrowing facility with up to 4900 pigs that would have generated an estimated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure annually.

Stine is recommending the state’s Environmental Quality Board conduct a regional environmental study of groundwater pollution for the geologically sensitive karst region of southeast Minnesota to “address elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water. “

“The karst region is subject to rapid seepage of contaminants from the land and overlying soils, making the groundwater of this region very vulnerable,” Stine said. A Minnesota Department of Agriculture study found that 19 of 24 townships in Fillmore County have private wells at or above the health risk limit for nitrates, which is 10 milligrams per liter. Nitrates in drinking water can pose a health risk to people, especially infants and the elderly.

The PCA says Stine’s decision means a related decision on whether to require an environmental impact statement for the project “is not needed at this time.”

“The Catalpa project is the first big new feedlot application we’ve had in Fillmore County since extensive data on nitrate contamination of drinking water wells has come out,” Stine said, referring to new well sampling data produced by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. While hundreds have supported an EIS, an in-depth environmental study, for the proposed Catalpa Ag swine facility in Fillmore County, Stine says the issue is bigger than any one feedlot or farm, saying it would be unfair to put the responsibility for the broad issue of existing nitrate contamination of groundwater onto one farmer.

More than 700 people attended two public meetings held by MPCA on the proposal in June and December. The MPCA received 771 comments on the project.

Iowa-based Catalpa may still apply for a customized permit, known as an individual permit. The individual permit process is a more in-depth and tailored analysis that is more rigorous than the general permit Catalpa Ag had applied for.

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