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Moniteau County health board weighs CAFO regulation

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A seven-member group of farmers, health professionals and environmental specialists appointed by the Moniteau County Health Board to study the potential effects of concentrated animal feeding operations is divided as they prepare to submit their findings to the board.

The Moniteau County Health Board is considering an ordinance to alleviate potential public health risks from CAFOs, and trying to enact the ordinance before a new state law goes into effect.

The county health board will meet at 5 p.m. July 15 at the California Nutrition Center to consider the health ordinance. A decision must be made before Aug. 28, when Senate Bill 391 goes into effect.

SB 391, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, prohibits county commissions and county health departments from passing CAFO regulations that are stricter than any state regulations.

CAFO opponents argue the state has done little to regulate the potential health and water pollution problems created by those operations. The operations, they say, cause more than just a bad smell — they threaten water safety and lower property values.

CAFO opponents also allege the state repeatedly has diluted CAFO regulations over the past few years, and the Missouri Clean Water Commission has been stacked with agricultural — not environmental — interests.

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The closest CAFO to Moniteau County is on the Cooper/Moniteau county line, just outside of Tipton.

The proposed Health Board regulation would provide water protections such as establishing how close animal wastes can be applied to land near homes, streams and water wells. It would also require setback distances between CAFO facilities to lessen potential health problems that could be concentrated in one area. The proposed regulation would only apply to new facilities in the county; those established already would be "grandfathered" in, trustees said.

SB 391 will remove the opportunity for health centers to pass the regulation, Health Board trustees were told. Critics said the new law will eliminate the county's ability to protect the public health from potential air and water pollution that would come from CAFOs.

On July 1, representatives from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources told the group how the department handles permitting, enforcement and issues that may come about from CAFO or other potential sources of wastewater pollution.

The DNR officials also said Missouri is a "no discharge" state and there has not been one case of water pollution linked to a CAFO.

The seven-member group met again Monday to discuss review the DNR information. While no vote was taken on a recommendation for the Health Board, four members expressed support for the health ordinance regulating CAFOs and three were opposed to the recommendation.

The group did not schedule a followup meeting but plans to meet again before the Monday meeting of the Health Board in the hopes of making a group recommendation.

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