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Surrounded by swine confinements

By Staff | May 2, 2015

-Farm News photo by Larry Kershner ROSEMARY PARTRIDGE, of rural Breda, points to a pair of swine confinement buildings that are visible from her driveway. Partridge, who has lived on her acreage for 37 years, said she is surrounded by as many as a dozen similar confinements within a four-mile radius of her home.




BREDA – Rosemary Partridge is quick to note that not every day is unbearable around her farm, surrounded by 12 swine confinements within four miles of her home.

But when it’s bad, it’s horrid – especially during the summer months, she said.

Rosemary Partridge

The pungent odors coming from concentrated manure pits is bad enough, she said, but it’s what’s in those odors that give her more concern.

Hog odors are known to carry ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, both of which are toxic to humans in concentrated amounts, affecting the elderly and children the most.

According to the Encyclopedia of Earth, ammonia is an irritant that can affect eyes, nose and throats. Prolonged exposure to heavy concentrations of ammonia can burn lung tissue.

Likewise, exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause irritation to eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some asthmatics.

Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 500 parts per million) can cause a loss of consciousness. Permanent or long-term effects can include headaches, poor attention span, poor memory and poor motor function.

It is also a heavy gas and settles along floors or low geographical areas, which makes it more dangerous for children, Partridge said.

Because livestock confinements – whether cattle, swine or poultry – are exempt from monitoring air emissions and reporting any problems to state or federal officials, no one knows if emissions are escaping that can harm the public.

She said she doesn’t think a suit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency to require owners of livestock confinements to monitor air emissions from their buildings has a chance of being successful, but she thinks public awareness has to be raised.

Partridge was part of a nationwide telephone conference with media about the suit filed against EPA.

“I’m not part of the suit,” Partridge said. “I’m just a witness to the affects of (living near) confiements.

“I hate my name being in the paper, but this is an important issue.”

The worst times, she said, are during hot, windless summer days when temperatures cool off in the evening and the inversion layer drops to ground level.

“It’s nauseating,” Partridge said. “We have to shut everything up, because once it’s in the house, it’s hard to get rid of that smell.”

When liquid hog manure is being applied directly from a pit down the road, onto a a field directly across from her home, Partridge said she and her husband have had to leave for as long as three days.

“He uses best practices,” Partridge said of the unnamed farmer, “but it’s unbearable.”

Partridge said her husband has breathing problems from particulate matter from the aggregated hog odors.

She’s also concerned about the safety of the residents of Breda four miles away. “People need to know what they’re exposed to.”

She said she grew up on a farm near Iowa City, and her family raised hogs.

“I love hogs,” she said, “but on an industrial scale, you can’t pretend it’s the same.”

Partridge said she knows there are many farmers who are working hard to employ farming practices that don’t hurt the environment.

“But there are some who just aren’t paying attention,” she said.

The Partridges have lived on their 180-acre farm for 37 years, she said.

With the exception of 10 acres of hay ground, the rest of their acres are in conservation reserve programs, including some highly erodible acres that affect nearby Carnarvon Creek that are in permanent conservation easements, meaning they can never be used for ag production.

Carnarvon Creek is the primary tributary that flows north in the Black Hawk (Wall Lake Inlet) Watershed, which culminates in Sac County.

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