Hog farm pays penalty for manure violation

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A southeastern Minnesota hog producer has agreed to pay a $14,000 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for pumping manure into a field that drained to a nearby creek.

Craig Benedix has 3,000 hogs on his farm near Mantorville. In October 2011, Benedix violated state law when he pumped manure from one of his storage pits to an adjacent cornfield.

MPCA spokesman Forrest Peterson said the manure flowed from the field to a creek that leads to the Zumbro River.

"The practice is to pump it out into a tanker truck or other hose or something," Peterson said, "and then haul it out to cropland and inject it into the cropland as fertilizer. But to just pump it out and release it into a field that eventually can get into waterways, that's prohibited."

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Benedix told investigators that he pumped the manure onto the field because manure had filled the swine pit, Peterson said.

The discharge violated several state statues, as well as rules and conditions of Benedix's feedlot permit.

"It didn't appear that this was an accident or equipment breakdown or failure to have a manure management plan or anything like that," Peterson said. "In this particular case, it just appeared to be an action by the regulated party to do this."

Peterson said it was unclear exactly how much manure made it into the creek.

"When this organic material breaks down in water," he said, "it depletes the level of dissolved oxygen to a point where it can affect aquatic life, but I don't know if that happened in this case."