Manure/silage debate hangs in the air

There’s an issue of stink being raised by some Ponoka County residents over some farming practices that will now be looked into.

There’s an issue of stink being raised by some Ponoka County residents over some farming practices that will now be looked into.

Councillor Doug Weir, who represents residents in Division 3, brought up the complaints and concerns he’s received about the various manure and silage operations being conducted in the county.

“What makes them so special that they think they can run until all hours of the early morning. It’s annoying,” Weir explained.

“It’s different from the family farm operations and at harvest time. They have to get it done especially if the weather looks like it will turn bad.”

He added it isn’t just the bright lights and noise that are the big concerns, but also the dust and the potential road damage from the large equipment hitting the dirt.

“That big equipment just keeps getting larger,” Weir said, mostly about the silage operators, “They are using wagons that are manufactured for 12 tons and they are putting on as much as 20.”

He also stated that some of the dust control issues could be settled by chip sealing some of these roads.

In response, chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth explained the permits for the liquid manure operations are being adhered to, which includes the provincial and county regulations for weight and hours of operation.

However, for the custom silage operations, they are not subject to the same permits and that these operations typically don’t haul as many loads as the manure nor create as much potential for damaging the county roads.

“(For silage) it’s not so much the road damage as it is the complaints about dust and speeding. Our concern is if we charge them for the road damage, but the road wasn’t built to the ideal standard we have now. If it was, that’s a different story,” Cutforth explained.

“We have created a situation where many roads were not designed for that and as we upgrade to that we can look at it, but does that mean we chip seal those roads.”

Weir simply wants some common sense to prevail among those custom operators, “but we develop the road and then it gets beat up and (those operations) are not responsible for it.”

“As well, the hours of operation for these contractors, working until 3 or 4 a.m. with residents on nearby acreages amongst those farms putting up with the huge, bright lights and constant noise from contractors that have no vested interest are also an issue.”

Currently, the county budgets about $1.6 million for chip seal work on roads much of that is for maintenance. Herb Schwingel, public works superintendent explained that it depends on the type of road, its base, the traffic it handles and the weights it carries that factor into whether chip seal is a good fit.

“Chip seal works in the right places and Division 3 is where the majority of the silage and manure activity is,” Cutforth stated.

“It costs $40,000 per mile to chip seal, but to gravel and grade annually is about the same, it’s just the chip seal maintenance cost that is a higher focus for some reason and we can’t match what the current contractor price offers, so we are doing all we can.”

He added they will keep Weir’s concerns in mind, but also that it’s a challenge for sure to manage the complaints and the needs of the farming operations.

In the end, council directed administration to look into what other areas are doing about similar concerns with silage operations and to report back about any findings and recommendations.

 

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