Madison Food Park Slaughterhouse Remains a Threat to Community, Clean Water, and Human Health
It’s been several years since the Madison Food Park Slaughterhouse (MFP) was proposed, yet this threat still looms over Great Falls and Cascade County residents, our clean water, and our health. In September, the Cascade County Zoning Board gave MFP’s proponent - Mr. Friesen - a two year extension to the still-pending Special Use Permit application. The silence surrounding MFP does not mean the proposal is dead and we should let our guard down. Rather, everyone who cares about Great Falls’ rich history, way of life, and outdoor recreation should remain vigilant, for our community will be forever changed if it becomes a slaughterhouse town.
The MFP Slaughterhouse would be a 3,000-acre industrial-scale facility situated eight miles upstream of Great Falls and just six miles from the city’s drinking water source, the Missouri River. The impacts on the region’s water quantity and quality would be severe, consuming 3.5 million gallons of water from the Madison Aquifer and discharging thousands of gallons of dangerous wastewater each day, threatening pollution to downstream creeks and fisheries, the recreational opportunities they support, and our drinking water supplies. In fact, eight of the twenty largest waterway polluters in the Nation are industrial slaughterhouses.
The sheer enormity of waste produced by MFP is also notable. The slaughterhouse would process approximately 132,400 animals weekly, including 9,900 hogs, 2,500 cattle, and 120,000 chickens, resulting in staggering volumes of waste per week. Solid and liquid waste from industrial-scale slaughterhouses produce noxious odors that would significantly degrade air quality and the aesthetics of our downwind Great Falls community.
Traditional agriculture and ranching runs deep in Montana, but sadly, MFP would compete against and likely displace small-scale, family-owned farming and ranching with industrial, concentrated feedlots. Instead of inviting corporate take-overs and foreign investors, we should be carrying forth the already-present momentum of mobile slaughterhouses and community-scale butcher shops that connect local producers and supplies.
Cascade County citizens should be staunch opponents of MFP as it poses serious health impacts, economic, and social consequences. Increased exposure to viruses, bacteria, and wastes, decreased property values, medical service shortfalls, housing shortages, overcrowded school systems, traffic influx, and road infrastructure deterioration are common issues in slaughterhouse towns across the country. The exciting new small businesses, park refinements, and community updates occurring in Great Falls will be all for nothing if our community becomes home to an industrial-scale slaughterhouse.
In short, MFP Slaughterhouse isn’t a good fit for Montana, family-owned agriculture, the Great Falls community, or Cascade County. Last spring, the Great Falls City Commission, joined by the Neighborhood Council of Councils and thousands of community members, expressed these concerns to the Governor’s Office and requested the highest level of scrutiny of MFP, yet no action has been taken. Our top government leaders’ inaction means we must remain vigilant in watching the decisionmaking of our local county officials who have inexplicably kept this dangerous proposal alive. We can, and must, demand a better future for our families, communities, and way of life.
Protect the Falls is a diverse coalition of Montanans working to safeguard public health, healthy waterways, clean air, and rural quality of life in the larger Great Falls region from the significant threats posed by the proposed industrial-scale multi-species Madison Food Park Slaughterhouse. Learn more at ProtectTheFalls.org
Original opinion article by a local Great Falls resident. Published in the Great Falls Tribune, here.
Gregg Smith’s recent opinion (Online and in March 15 Tribune) contains untruths and misinformation regarding public participation and the Special Use Permitting process for the Madison Food Park.
His “simple premise” that landowners have freedom in deciding uses of their land is incorrect.
Like it or not, we have laws, regulations and zoning that were established to protect all landowners. Citizens have a right, by law, to challenge a change in use application.
He falsely refers to a year of “wrangling” with the county’s regulations. Growth policy and zoning hearings occurred but the developer was free to file his applications at any time.
The writer’s claim that these projects will support local agriculture is doubtful if not untrue. Milk production in Montana is regulated and it appears that the amount of class III milk produced in state will not be enough to support this factory. Additionally, the “distillery “ will actually be a bottling plant for tequila from Mexico and vodka from Canada.
Mr. Smith also, rants about multiple hearings. The process is outlined in the law so I advise him to review the MCA and Cascade County zoning regulations for explanation. The Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBOA) is more than an advisory board. They have a legal duty to review applications, consider public comment and list conditions that mitigate legitimate concerns. It is reasonable and expected for the ZBOA to ask for clarification. Also, if the developer was upset about the ZBOA “dictating “ the hours of business, then they should not have listed those same hours of operation in their application!
Zoning Board of Adjustments has a legal duty to review applications, writer says.
Disparaging comments were made about the ZBOA. These volunteer board members take on some important and difficult duties for our county, spending hours of uncompensated time reading materials and listening to testimony. I don’t always agree with their decisions but I applaud their commitment.
Suggesting that they “willingly go along “ or impose “silly” or “draconian” conditions is disrespectful of their time and work. To set the record straight, Montanans for Responsible Land Use was formed in November of 2017. The decision to register as a nonprofit corporation with the state of Montana was made in September 2019. The corporation status does not expire on Dec. 1 and the directors do not all live on the same street east of town.
Misleading and dismissive comments about public comment imply that if 1,000 people voice opposition, then everyone else must be in favor of these developments.
Attendance at any of the hearings or a reading of written comments would show that opponents have consistently outnumbered proponents by a wide margin. It would also show that there are more than “provincial concerns” at play here.
Implications that “the system” is set against landowners with “a million dollars” to spend only further the distrust between citizens, county staff and elected officials. Zoning regulations should not support one landowner over another based on a bank account or borrowing capacity.
It is time to stop misrepresentation and false claims.
Jaybe Floyd is a resident of Cascade County.
Original opinion article by a local Montana resident. Published in the Great Falls Tribune, here.
Contrary to the recent guest opinion piece in this newspaper from Kurt Rockeman, the Madison Food Park Slaughterhouse proposal is a ticking time bomb for Great Falls, not an amazing economic windfall.
Let Upper Missouri Waterkeeper share a few compelling reasons, based on our expertise in water resources management, about why Great Falls should not become a slaughterhouse town.
From an ecological perspective, industrial-scale slaughterhouses create some of the worst water pollution problems in our nation.
EPA records show that three-quarters of industrial scale meat processing plants discharging waste into local waterways violated their pollution control permits over the last two years, with some dumping as much nitrogen pollution as small cities – and facing little or no enforcement.
For 98 of the largest meat-processing plants in the U.S. discharging more than 250,000 gallons of wastewater daily, records from January 2016 through June 2018 show that 74 of the plants violated permit limits for nitrogen, fecal bacteria, or other harmful pollutants at least once. Fifty of 98 had five violations, and 32 of 98 had at least 10 violations.
Of those 98 industrial slaughterhouses, 60 are releasing their wastes to rivers, streams, and other waterways that are polluted because of the main pollutants found in slaughterhouse wastes: bacteria, pathogens, nutrients, and other oxygen-depleting substances that destroy local water quality and harm aquatic life.
Industrial-scale slaughterhouses, and the concentrated animal factory farms that nearly always supply them, are among the nation’s leading contributors of nutrient pollution, which fuels excessive algae growth and creates fish-killing low-oxygen ‘dead zones’ in local streams, lakes and creeks.
Permit data from across the nation shows the vast majority of industrial scale slaughterhouses operating in the U.S. use remedial and inadequate treatment techniques that contribute significant pollution to local landscapes and waterways.
Whether polluted runoff from often-leaking waste storage lagoons, over-fertilized fields sprayed with antibiotic laced wastes as “beneficial reuse” to grow animal feed, the incentive an industrial scale slaughterhouse would create for the growth of nearby corporate style mega-meat farms, or the threat to local fisheries and the downstream Missouri River itself, factual examples across the nation indicate that the Madison Food Park’s mega slaughterhouse is likely to directly affect local water quality, threaten drinking water supplies and harm Montana’s outdoors.
Do we want to risk seeing our world-class fisheries or the drinking water source for the city of Great Falls – the Missouri River – degraded or contaminated, or risk the emerging outdoors-based economy and local businesses that are dependent on Montana’s clean and healthy outdoors for foreign corporate profits? Talk about closing the door to the growth of any future outdoors-based tourism economy for Great Falls.
The Madison Food Park slaughterhouse is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and these water pollution facts are just a few of the compelling reasons Great Falls should respectfully say “no” to an industrial scale slaughterhouse. If built, dozens of polluting, industrial scale facilities across the nation show clearly that we, the people of Montana, will pay.
The cost we’ll bear will be more water pollution, more air pollution, and far-reaching negative social, human health, and economic consequences.
Let’s all dig deep to develop meaningful opportunities to cultivate sustainable economic opportunities that won’t destroy the Montana quality of life we all hold dear.
Guy Alsentzer is executive director of the clean water advocacy nonprofit Upper Missouri Waterkeeper and has over a decade of experience in federal and state water pollution control law.