CAMILLUS, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District is a non-profit organization that works with over 300 farms in the region to help implement various projects. That includes the Hourigan family farm’s latest plans to build a manure storage facility in Camillus. 

But, the non-profit organization doesn’t have any oversight of the project from a regulatory standpoint, which comes from the New York State DEC and the federal government. However, the Executive Director of Onondaga County Soil and Water, Mark Burger said he believes the project is basically a done deal. 

“We are still working very closely with the town to make sure all of their requirements are met, but yes the farm to maintain their compliance with their NYS DEC CAFO permit will be constructing a manure storage,” Burger said.

But the Camillus Town Attorney, James Gascon said not so fast. 

“The Town of Camillus is in a very unique situation for a couple of reasons, one this farm is subject to an agricultural easement,” Gascon said. 

The Hourigan family farm was the first farm in Onondaga County that was granted an agricultural easement through the American Farmland Trust. The easement states that no structure can be built outside of the farmstead, a set of parameters on the farm unless the town gives written permission. The proposed manure pit is currently outside of the farmstead area, in violation of the easement. 

“The other ability the town has is under Ag and Markets law section 305A subsection B, the town is entitled to pass a local law that permits the town to conduct a site plan review of the project.”

James Gascon, Camillus Town Attorney

The Town Board has already introduced that law and is holding a public hearing for community members to weigh in. If the law is passed it would give the town more time to review geology and engineering reports of the land as there are concerns from the town and the neighbors that health and safety could be at risk if the storage unit was built so close to homes. 

Burger said he is unaware of any of the health-related concerns residents have brought up, explaining that these storage facilities are heavily regulated and inspected. 

“This manure storage is being built with concrete and it is being built with a landfill-style liner underneath the concrete so that there are multiple layers of protection to make sure the environment and our water quality is well cared for in the community. Additionally, there will be an exclusion fense and gate system around the manure storage so we’re keeping people and animals outside of the storage system itself. The farm will have frequent oversight and inspection in the process. There will be a footer drain built beneath the manure storage so it allows for inspection and monitoring purposes for, you know, benefits of water quality, etc. to make sure that’s all being maintained.”

Mark Burger, Executive Director of Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District

He added that one of the nice things about a manure storage system is that it allows farmers to use updated drag hose technology to lay the manure on the fields, reducing the time for manure application and reducing the time people smell manure odors in the air. 

As for the town, they hope to vote on the proposed law sometime next month once the Ag and Markets department approves it. Gascon said the town’s main priority is ensuring the health and safety of its residents. 

The public hearing will continue Tuesday, July 26 during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting at 7pm. Camillus residents in opposition of the manure pit plan to hold a protest outside of the Camillus Municipal Building ahead of the meeting, starting at 5pm.