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Hole in dam caused manure flow into Callaway County creek

A hole in an earthen dam near Miller’s Creek caused water and manure to flow 600 yards down a tributary of the creek in Callaway County.

A report from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said water escaped from a “catch basin” near a field which used hog manure as fertilizer. A catch basin is supposed to retain any sediment from entering the streams.

The manure came from a nearby field that used the waste as fertilizer for crops. The report does not say how much manure ran off the nearby field into the tributary.

“We’re only human,” Don Lehenbauer, owner of the company who applied the manure on the land, told ABC 17 News. “We pay for our mistakes, and we don’t try to get away from our mistakes. That’s the reason the DNR was out there. We welcomed the DNR, it was not a problem.”

The report says Josh Lehenbauer, Don’s son, was applying hog manure from the confined animal feeding operation owned by Gary Horstmeier to a field of crops Horstmeier also owned. In the process of injecting the manure between the rows of crops directly into the soil, the vehicle also applied manure upon the surface when turning between rows. The ground, though, was not absorbing the manure as fast as usual since it was wet. Josh Lehenbauer said they had reduced the amount of manure because of it.

“Mr. Lehenbauer stated they were not always checking the perimeter of the field and thought the catch basin would contain any runoff from the edge of the field,” DNR Environmental Specialist Michael Heaton said in his report.

However, according the report, “the center of the dam of the catch basin was not present.”

Don Lehenbauer said the heavy rains in October caused the hole in the earthen dam. He admitted his crew should have checked the dam before land-applying the manure.

The investigation began October 20, when Ronnie O’Neal, who owns property next to the field and downstream from the catch basin, called about “black and odorous” water. Heaton’s investigation notes several instances of it down the unnamed tributary of Miller’s Creek, stretching into the Mark Twain National Forest. According to the report, Josh Lehenbauer applied the manure the day before.

O’Neal did not respond to ABC 17 News’ call for this story.

The report said no aquatic life died due to the manure leak into the tributary.

The clean-up lasted two days, as Don Lehenbauer said crews pumped manure out of the creek, then flushed fresh lake water downstream. They pumped that water out, as well, and spread it on an area of the Mark Twain National Forest.

“We pumped the creek about three hours, and we pumped that thing to where we knew she was clean, it was diluted, it was not a problem,” Don Lehenbauer said.

Lehenbauer also told ABC 17 News some procedures have changed since the incident. Crews will now double-check the perimeters of each field they apply manure to limit runoff.

“If you think that I’m going to do anything that’s detrimental to any of my neighbors, it’s not going to happen,” Don Lehenbauer said. “I don’t care what it costs me. It’s not going to happen.”

DNR also required Pork Masters Inc., the CAFO operated by Gary Horstmeier, to pay for the investigative costs, as well as a civil penalty to the Callaway County School Fund.

Darren Horstmeier, Gary Horstmeier’s son, owns land currently proposed to house another CAFO. The operation would bring nearly 10,000 pigs for gestation and farrowing for Eichelberger Farms, an Iowa-based company. DNR is holding a public hearing on the project Thursday at 7 p.m. at Hatton-McCreadie Elementary School.

In the DNR investigation report for Pork Masters, Josh Lehenbauer said, “it was his fault the discharge occurred and this should not reflect on the Pork Masters Inc. facility.”

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