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Neighbors worried about proposed hog confinement in Mercer County

VIOLA, Illinois-- Some people living south of Viola say their community is peaceful and quiet. But driving through you notice dozens of white signs with red lettering reading, "No hog confinement near our family homes."

People are worried a proposed hog confinement facility just a mile away could change their homes for the worse.

"Some people in the area have been here 50, 60 years," says one neighbor sitting around Mychele Mack's kitchen table Monday, January 21.

Mack has been rallying her neighbors against the hog confinement. Proposed by Bradley Colton Welch, it would bring 2,400 hogs to the area. But neighbors say it will also bring pollution and health problems.

"Which it's his property, he should be able to do what he wants," Mack says. "But it's actually going to affect everyone around him... It will pollute the well. It will pollute the air. It can cause asthma and bronchitis more often in people living around those fumes."

Only neighbors living within a quarter mile of the confinement were notified. Mercer County could have held a public comment period if the proposed facility would house at least 2,500 hogs, but the facility will keep just 100 short of that.

Neighbors say there's little they can do to stop the project.

"We're just really nervous about all the things that can happen," Mack says.

News 8 reached out to Welch for comment but he declined.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture says Welch's notice of intent to construct has been accepted but the construction plan is being reviewed.

The Bureau Chief of Environmental Programs Warren Goestch tells News 8 the paperwork Welch has submitted is a "pretty standard application." Goestch says confinements have to meet standards to ensure manure and water don't come into contact.

But neighbors say they're worried an accident or lack of upkeep at the facility could let manure and chemicals run-off into the waterways.

Goestch says facilities are inspected throughout the building process but are not inspected after completion.

Neighbors are also worried about dust from the manure.

"That dust will get in the air and it will travel for miles," says Robert Young, whose parents live closest to the proposed confinement.

He says dust is blown off of the manure, getting contaminates into the air and water.

"(My parents are) going to be confined to their home," he says. "They won't be able to hang their clothes out on the lines for fear of the wind change. They won't be able to leave their windows open."

Other neighbors say their property values will take a hit from being so close to a hog confinement.

Several neighbors have written letters to the editors to bring awareness to hog confinements and the problems they can pose. They say raising awareness is the only way they can hope to stop the project.

The Department of Agriculture says construction can start after the construction plan is approved.

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