CAFO spill prompts neighbors to keep a close eye on water

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CALLAWAY COUNTY - Neighbors in Callaway County have implemented a new system for tracking water quality after a manure spill in October.

The spill happened in late Oct. 2014, when one of the area neighbors found the contamination in a creek right next to the CAFO. 10,000 gallons of manure were spilled at that time.

Margot McMillen, a nearby resident, said the government-owned land next to the confinement, where the spill was found, was not routinely checked for water quality.

"In our neighborhood we hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about water quality," she said, "We're just so lucky. We have such great streams and so much abundance."

That thinking changed after the spill.

Neighbors were out Friday taking measurements to asses the quality of water the manure spilled into. They wanted to find out what effect, if any, the spill had on the water and how it recovered. The group looked for certain life forms, including bugs, and to see how fast the water is flowing to determine what the water quality currently is.

McMillen said some of the life forms can indicate what the water is like.  "Some of them are just indicators that, you know, that everything's not dead," she said.

McMillen said what they found tells us that the water's not in great shape. "It's not dead. But we hope that it will recover more."

"Our plan now is to come back every six months, and probably forever," McMillen said. 

The same group of neighbors is still trying to fight the construction of a new 10,000 hog confinement nearby, nearly a year after they were notified it would be built. Eichelberger Farms bought land to build the facility last year, and has since come to a number of easement agreements with surrounding land owners to spread the resulting manure.

"I'm very concerned," McMillen said. "If this happens and they spread it, it won't have had any testing, we don't know what's in it. We raise sheep and our sheep will be downhill from that."

What McMillen and her neighbors find in their water quality observations will help decide future interaction with Eichelberger.

"We need to have some kind of an emergency plan in place for the neighborhood to get monitors to watch if there is another spill and to be able to really react to it," she said. "We're probably going to be much more sensitive to what's going on and much more aware of what's going on around us than we have been in the past."

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