A group of residents who live near a horse manure/composting operation in the Morriston-Montbrook area say it is making their lives miserable with the foul odor and fly problems, poses an environmental risk and affects their property values.
Their complaints to the Levy County Commission on Tuesday did not result in any commission action, only the advice that their best recourse is by taking the matter to court. Even the county's code enforcement officer told the commission that the operation meets state rules for a composting operation and meets the state's “best management practices.”
The group complained that landowner Alan Fant has eight and 10-foot piles of horse barn sweepings on his property on County Road 326 that have an associated fly problem and a foul odor. The residents said they were concerned about the manure piles affecting their health, the environment and the value of their properties.
However, there may be some relief on the way as the owner of the operation, Alan Fant told the commission that the 40-acre operation will be cut by half. He said it is a composting operation for used horse bedding and has been in operation for three years. “We allow the piles to break down naturally,” Fant said. This means he does not use water or nitrogen — which leaves behind nitrates to pollute water supplies — to speed the decomposition. He said he uses fly bait stations and releases predator wasps that feed on fly larvae to control the flies attracted to the decaying material.
He said his operation has been checked by state agencies and no issues have been found.
Kathy Joe Rindernecht said the number of dump trucks going in and out of Fant's operation, which she estimated at 37 per day — have increased problems on the roadway.
“I hope you will take this to heart as if it was next door to you,” she said.
Cecil Benton, who has resided in the neighborhood for 62 years, said,” We cannot eat outside in the summer with the flies.” And he said he was concerned about contaminants from the horse stall sweepings leeching into the soil. Kelly Morgan said, “Every time you get in the car theres flies and if you leave the windows dow there will be three or four flies in the car.”
Hal Phillips who owns land 2 miles north of Fant's property and has a cattle operation ½ mile south of the site, told the commissioners, “You have not done your job.” He cited state administrative rules that regulate composting operations like Fant's and said the operation does not fit.
He said he had been harmed by the operation as eye lesions on his cattle increased by 500 percent and blamed it on the fly problem. “The fly problem is creating a health problem,” Phillips said.
He said he could not enter his house without having flies come inside as well.
“I have been told by several of you there's nothing you can do,” Phillips told the commissioners. “This is not a normal composting operation.”
Phillips said Fant just started using the material for composting in his peanut farming operation but had a termite and insect problem that hurt his crop and 6-foot weeds on his property.
Fant said the termite problem was the result of using land that had been just clear cut of timber and it a common situation.
County Code Enforcement Officer Ted Parada said while he would like the operation to go away, the county cannot enforce the state rules. And he said state officials have determined that Fant's operation is part of a normal farming operation and are not regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The commissioners told the group, some of whom are related to Fant, they would have to take the matter before a judge to sort out whether state rules were being violated and not enforced.