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Neighbors in Burnett County oppose mega hog farm, seek to oust town's chairman

Updated: July 05, 2019 06:34 PM

Before a massive hog farming operation gets final approval to set up on about 38 acres of land in Burnett County, Wisconsin, a group of neighbors is hoping local leaders will agree to put those plans on hold.

But some of those neighbors said their town board's chairman has a conflict of interest and they're taking him to court to try to force his removal from the board.

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The complaint filed in June says Trade Lake town chairman Jim Melin did not initially inform residents or other board members about his plans to sell part of his land to the Iowa-based group looking to set up a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

"I'm not going to hold any animosity toward him, but I feel like he's throwing the town under the bus," said longtime resident Ramona Moody.

Moody lives next to the location of the proposed 26,000 hog facility on State Road 48.

She and 10 other neighbors are named as plaintiffs in the action to remove Melin.

Melin declined an on-camera interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, but on the phone he denied any wrongdoing.

Regarding the town's ongoing discussions about the proposed hog farm, Melin said he has recused himself and has not been involved.

"I have no hand in it," Melin said. "I have made no decisions, government-wise."

Nobody with the companies proposing the hog farm — Cumberland LLC in Wisconsin or Suidae Health and Production out of Iowa — could be reached for comment on Friday.

Opponents of the operation said they're now hoping Trade Lake Township or Burnett County will place a moratorium on any new livestock facilities.

Neighbors pointed to potential odors, insects, diminished property values along with land and water contamination as their top concerns.

"The aquifer contamination, the health risks. Those are really big in my mind," Moody said.

Another neighbor, Rick Painter, who lives along Little Trade Lake said  he believes the potential impact of manure and other byproducts of the hog farm could be felt beyond their small town.

"This lake flows right into the St. Croix River, which flows right into the Mississippi River, so it's all downhill from here," said Painter.

On the phone, Melin dismissed concerns about the amount of manure that would be used as fertilizer on surrounding farms, saying it's similar to the amount being used from other sources now.

"My family has been farming in Trade Lake Township for 149 years and we want to keep farming another 149 years," said Melin.

Both the Trade Lake Township board and the Burnett County Zoning Committee are expected to take up the issue next week.

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Eric Rasmussen

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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