MPCA returns to review karst dangers for hog feedlot Commissioner John Linc Stine in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting in Mabel

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) returned to the Mabel Community Center on Tuesday, Dec. 4, for one last chance for the public to weigh in and ask questions about the water quality dangers posed by the proposed Catalpa hog feedlot in Newburg. MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine was expected to be in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, to hear first-hand public comment on the facility. The meeting was held after the News Leader went to press, but look in next week’s issue for full coverage of this meeting.

Earlier this summer, an overflow crowd of concerned citizens demanded the MPCA require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before considering the proposed permit. Based on some of the record 771 comment letters received during the initial public notice, the MPCA recently ordered two additional studies of the site.

The MPCA requested an investigation of a potential sinkhole, because this karst feature requires protective measures to prevent contamination of groundwater.

It also requested an electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) survey to determine if significant karst features exist underground, which would impact conditions for the proposed feedlot.

The first investigation found no evidence of a sinkhole near the proposed project site. The ERI survey, by a consultant, found no karst hazards that would preclude construction at the site.

However, those studies have been severely criticized by an outside geology expert, Dr. Calvin Alexander, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), citing flawed methods and clear evidence of karst formations, which was disregarded by the studies.

A third critique just released on Nov, 28, also supporting an EIS, shows, "construction of Catalpa will increase the risk of groundwater pollution."

Martin Larsen, a fifth-generation farmer and president of the Minnesota Cave Preserve and Minnesota Caving Club said, “Infiltrating large quantities of water in this geologic setting will increase probability of sinkhole formation to a level that is not acceptable…The fundamental methods and conclusions of the Electrical Resistivity Imaging (ERI) study are vague and imprecise.”

Catalpa Ag proposes to build a new 4,890-head swine farrowing facility in Newburg Township, Fillmore County. It would include two barns, an animal mortality composting building, a storm water basin and a livestock watering well.

The proposed facility would generate an estimated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure annually that would be stored in reinforced concrete pits below the barns, with a total capacity of nearly 8.9 million gallons. Catalpa would remove the manure in fall and inject it into cropland as fertilizer following an MPCA-approved manure management plan requiring at least 732 acres of cropland. More than 1,761 acres of cropland are available for land application among 24 sites in the county.

In addition to public comments presented at Tuesday’s meeting in Mabel, a written comment period is open until Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 4:30 pm.

The MPCA will consider comments related to the additional investigations, sent via email to, or mailed to Charles Peterson, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.