Fragrant 40 swine farm sued over strong odor; Neighbors say they can't sleep

Kelly Holleran Mar. 14, 2012, 12:55pm

The Macoupin County neighbors of a swine farm complained in recently filed court documents about odors emanating from the farm, saying they are unable to host family gatherings and to sleep in their home because of the smell from their nearby residents' land.

Joe Clark, Megan Clark, Bob Norris and Tom Gall filed a lawsuit Feb. 28 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Fragrant 40, Ronald D. Seabaugh and Jeff Seabaugh.

The plaintiffs, who live less than one mile away from a swine farm at 1682 Barr Rd. in Greenfield, allege they have been unable to cook or eat outdoors or host traditional holiday events because of a strong odor that originates from an excess of pig manure and urine at the farm.

The Seabaughs operate the farm, where they raise more than 4,500 pigs, according to the complaint. However, the defendants have failed to properly care for the animals at the facility, the suit states. As a result, the swines' urine and manure has caused a stench in the air and has seeped into nearby water supplies, the complaint says.

Seven large buildings house the pigs on the property. The buildings and the land surrounding them, though, are not adequate to control the amount of waste produced by the pigs, the plaintiffs say.

Nearby residents began complaining when they noticed a neighboring creek, Taylor Creek, changing to a reddish-orange color. The pigs' manure and urine had flowed from the farm, down a ditch and into the creek, mutating its hues, according to the complaint.

The Environmental Protection Agency investigated complaints numerous times and even sent a violation notice to the facility regarding the amount of discharge produced, the suit states.

Despite the EPA's involvement, the alleged excessive discharge and resulting odor has continued to be a nuisance for neighbors, the complaint says.

The Illinois attorney's general office has already filed a complaint in Macoupin County against the swine facility, alleging water pollution, creating a water pollution hazard, NPDES permit violations, offensive conditions, agricultural related pollution and air pollution.

In their current complaint, the plaintiffs allege private temporary nuisance, negligence and continuing trespass against the defendants.

The plaintiffs say that not only have they been forced to suffer with the odors from the farm, but they have also been harassed since making their complaints to the EPA.

"Shortly following the lodging of one of their complaints, Plaintiffs received the severed head of a sow in their front yard," the suit states. "Since first complaining about Defendants' facilities, Plaintiffs have also encountered one or more of the Defendants, or their employees, stopped in front of Plaintiffs' house, driving slowly past Plaintiffs' house at odd hours, including the middle of the night, and staring at Plaintiffs."

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim they have been unable to enjoy the use of their properties because of the smell of the swine farm. In fact, they say they are forced to sleep in their basements at times because the odor is so strong in their homes. In addition, they have to cover their faces at times when they walk outdoors and are concerned for their health because of the contaminated water supply, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs seek an unspecified judgment in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of Jefferson County District, plus punitive damages, costs, attorneys' fees and other relief the court deems just.

Gregory L. Shevlin of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer and Shevlin in Belleville; Richard H. Middleton Jr. of The Middleton Firm in Savanna, Ga.; and Charles F. Speer of Speer Law Firm in Kansas City, Mo., will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-111.

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