Lagoon permit hearing set for today

PNT Staff Report

A public hearing on a groundwater discharge permit for a Roosevelt County dairy is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the Memorial Building, according to a press release from the New Mexico Environment Department.

The hearing, originally scheduled for May 10, was postponed to allow the public more time to participate, according to NMED officials.
Stepping Stone Dairy, operated by Kevin Breshears of Portales, is seeking a permit to operate an expanded sewer lagoon on the property, located south of Portales.

According to Marissa Stone, spokesperson for NMED, the hearing was triggered because of interest the permit has generated in the community, including a petition submitted to NMED.

“There is significant interest in the area about this issue, and Secretary (Ron) Curry wanted the owners (of the dairy) and residents to have an opportunity to discuss the permit,” Stone said.

Stone said during the hearing, the dairy operators would first have an opportunity to speak, followed by any members of the public who wish to speak about the permit. She said the hearing officer will compile both oral and written arguments on the permit for inclusion in study of the permit.

Stone said it could be several months before a determination on the permit is made.

She said hearings such as this one have been infrequent in eastern New Mexico but tend to happen more frequently in other parts of the state.

The issue heated up after a neighbor to the dairy, Janelle Paiz, began circulating a petition to stop construction of the lagoon. Paiz also took the petition to the Roosevelt County Commission, Portales City Council and the Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents seeking support in stopping the lagoon, which opponents say could potentially cause air quality, insect and safety problems.

ENMU Regents were the only one of the three boards to express support for denying the permit, passing a resolution and announcing their intention to speak against it at the hearing because of its proximity to the university.

Breshears, who took over operating the dairy last year, has appeared at public meetings recently to say he intends to be a good neighbor and the new lagoon should actually decrease any odor problems. He contends he’s following state requirements for operating the dairy, which has been in that location since the late 1960s.