Home > Uncategorized > Johanna Farms’ Industrial Odors Hiding Behind Right-To-Farm

Johanna Farms’ Industrial Odors Hiding Behind Right-To-Farm

Farm, West Amwell NJ


[Update Hunterdon Country Democrat story: Residents take concerns over West Awwell farm’s odors to DEP

Residents Bill Wolfe, Jennifer Andreoli, Wayne Boan and Cathy Urbanski, arguing that the sludge is not used properly, place the blame on Johanna Foods for the Fulpers’ alleged permit violations, according to the petition.

The residents, who complain of noxious odors, contend that the Fulpers have not complied with the permit’s conditions and that the material runs off into streams and percolates into the ground water, possibly polluting well water used by residents.

Wolfe said he first noticed the smell three years ago, but was prompted to take action after the odor became increasingly worse.

“I felt that if other people were as disgusted by it as me, maybe there’s enough support to stop this,” he said, adding that residents began to contact him after he wrote a blog post.

Wolfe, who has lived in the township for 17 years, said the issue has nothing to do with farming.

“I like agriculture smells. I like animals. I like farms,” he said, adding that he has cows and horses on either side of his property. “This doesn’t smell like manure. … This is industrial sludge that stinks. The last couple times, it’s been egregious.”

And once again, the DEP Press Office reflexively spins in favor of polluters not residents:

The petition alleges that the sludge has to be tilled into the soil within 48 hours, but DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency and the Department of Agriculture has looked into Fulper Farms more closely and has found that the farmer has complied with the permit.

“As long as the farmer is meeting the condition of the permit, he has that right to farm,” Hajna said.

Contrary to what Larry Rangonese of the DEP press office says, the petition we filed will force DEP lawyers to state on the record the legal reality that the NJ Right-To-Farm law does NOT trump the federal Clean Water Act, NJ state environmental laws, or public health or nuisance laws.

The petition illustrates specific examples of HUGE loopholes in the permit – so even if Fulper is in compliance with the permit (which he is NOT), the petition will force DEP to address these concerns.

We are not talking about minor issues: the DEP permit doe NOT consider potential impacts on drinking water wells, groundwater, or surface water. These are HUGE loopholes.  

In addition to the gaping loopholes of the permit, Fulper routinely violates 3 requirements of the permit: 1) he stores the sludge for more than 48 hours before applying it: 2) he does not till the soil within 48 hours of applying it; and 3) he creates “malodors”.    end update]


Residents Petition DEP To Revoke Johanna Sludge Disposal Permit For Local Farms

Extreme Odors and Threats to Water Resources Are Cited

“Right–to Farm” is Not a Right To Pollute

For Immediate release: Thursday September 6, 2012

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861

West Amwell, NJ – Township residents today filed a petition with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) demanding that DEP revoke the Johanna Farms sludge residual land application General Permit (GP). The petition was filed under DEP regulations, which provide specific grounds to revoke a GP.

Residents argue that the GP should be revoked because: 1) it has been repeatedly violated in West Amwell, 2) the GP does not provide monitoring or standards to control severe odors and threats to high quality local streams and drinking water wells; and 3) Johanna’s industrial sludge is not equivalent to a commercial fertilizer, produces severe odors, and is inherently not suitable for land application on farms located near homes.

“We’ve had enough. Johanna can not hide an industrial operation behind NJ’s Right To Farm law. DEP must enforce clean air and water laws to protect residents and water quality, not polluters” said West Amwell resident Bill Wolfe

Under the terms of the DEP GP, Johanna Farms is authorized to apply sludge generated by the wastewater treatment process at the Flemington plant.  That Johanna plant’s wastewater treatment process has received numerous odor complaints from nearby residents and is under increasingly strict DEP enforcement scrutiny.

According to DEP, Johanna generates approximately one 20 cubic yards roll-off container  per day of this sludge. Most of the sludge is disposed of in Pennsylvania, but some is applied to NJ farms.

Under the DEP GP issued to Johanna, West Amwell farmer Robert Fulper is allowed to apply the industrial sludge to farms in West Amwell.

There have been numerous odors complaints for several years regarding Fulper’s sludge handling and disposal practices.

A DEP General Permit (GP) is statewide in nature and does not consider specific local environmental conditions in West Amwell or the specific characteristics of the Johanna Farms sludge.

West Amwell residents rely on groundwater for drinking water supply and are concerned that the land application of high nutrient bearing Johanna sludge may threaten their drinking water wells.

The Alexauken Creek is a high quality stream in West Amwell , classified by DEP as a “Category One” (C1) water. C1 streams are given special protections, including 300 foot wide buffers, to protected them from any degradation of existing water quality.

The DEP must review and issue a decision on the petition in a reasonable timeframe. Under DEP rules, DEP has 3 options: 1) they may revoke the GP entirely, or 2) revoke the GP and replace it is with a stricter site specific “individual permit”; or 3) deny the petition. The DEP decision constitutes “final agency action” that is appealable through the courts.

How DEP handles the petition could set statewide precedent, especially regarding odors, water resource impacts, general permits, and NJ’s Right-To-Farm law.

[The DEP petition is available upon request – no link yet.]

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