Alberta village fights plan for 'horrible' animal feeding operation on nearby Hutterite colony

A small village near Vulcan, Alta., is appealing to the Natural Resources Conservation Board to halt plans for a big animal farming operation at a nearby Hutterite colony.

Residents say quality of life would be ruined by facility housing up to 130,000 animals

Stacey Hovde, mayor of Carmangay, Alta. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A small village near Vulcan, Alta., is appealing to the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) to halt plans for a big animal farming operation at a nearby Hutterite colony.

Residents in Carmangay, which has a population of around 250, say it's too close to their homes, poses health risks, and could create strong smells that would impact their quality of life.

"It's going to have a huge impact to our citizens, we're downwind and various studies show the pollutants, the hydrogen sulphide from [confined feeding operations] have harmful effects in human beings," said Carmangay's Mayor Stacey Hovde, who's been studying the negative impacts of confined feeding operations (CFOs) in other areas.

Carmangay, Alta., has a population of 250. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Hovde also wants Alberta Health to take a closer look at the possible impacts.

The plan, submitted by the Summerland colony, would involve more than a dozen new barns and manure storage areas, located six kilometres away from Carmangay.

The operation could include more than 130,000 chickens, 1,300 ducks, 550 pigs, 200 geese and 140 dairy cows. 

It was approved by the NRCB in January and although the village falls outside the required minimum distance for it to be considered directly impacted, Hovde says that doesn't mean they won't feel the effects. 

'We were never consulted'

"I have really grave concerns for our people with health issues, compromised immune systems and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and other conditions, because this is the type of pollution that is going to have an impact," Hovde said.

"We were never consulted, and that's absurd when you consider the proximity of the operation to our community," said Hovde.

The NRCB says dozens of people who live both inside the directly affected zone and outside of it — including the Village of Carmangay — have submitted concerns over the facility during the approval process, before coming to its decision.

Stacey Hovde wants the board to widen the radius it uses to determine who would and wouldn't be impacted.

Hovde is also concerned that wind direction data used to approve the operation was taken from Vulcan, about 36 kilometres away, rather from the village itself.

"We all know the prevailing wind here is from the southwest. We will be almost every day dealing with the smell and pollution," Hovde said.

Carmangay resident Eric Matlock is against the proposed farming operation. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"More science is coming out about confined feeding operations, on how hard they are on the environment, pushing nitrogen waste into confined areas, and the health issues," said Carmangay resident Eric Matlock.

"Having something like this in such close proximity seems absolutely ridiculous," he said. 

"For a place of our size I think it would be horrible. We have lots of retirees here with health issues, and lots of farms around too," said Matlock.

NRCB accepting appeals

The NRCB wouldn't talk in detail about the decision but says it is still accepting appeals.

"The board is allowing those parties who believe they'll be adversely affected to submit a written rebuttal to the board by 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 22," said Walter Ceroici, acting CEO of the NRCB.

Ceroici says six parties have so far requested a review of the decision and says there is still one option for Carmangay.

"They're outside of that directly impacted radius, but they're entitled to submit a request for review and they could argue for directly affected status," said Ceroici.

Stacey Hovde submitted an appeal last week. 

The NRCB say the Summerland colony will have until the end of 2021 to complete construction, if the project goes ahead.