Some Johnson Co. residents not excited about arrival of "bovine neighbors

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

MOUNTAIN CITY -- Johnson County residents are having a cow - well, 700 Holsteins to be exact. Carolina Holsteins, a Granite, N.C.-based dairy farm, plans to relocate to Dug Hill Road in the Neva/Roan Creek community, and some residents aren't excited about the arrival of bovine neighbors.
   Many citizens are opposed to a large dairy business, what the USDA calls Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, locating near them due to environmental concerns. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule requiring all large CAFOs to obtain permits that will ensure they protect America's waters from wastewater and manure.
   Maymead Inc., a family-owned asphalt company located in Roan Valley and the surrounding area since 1747, according to the company's Web site, owns the land that will be leased to Carolina Holsteins owner, Jerry Anderson.
   Maymead Vice President Wiley Roark said Anderson will be spending approximately $3 to $5 million for buildings and site work.
   Johnson Countians are weighing the pros and cons, but many feel advantages are few. Rumors have circulated that antibiotic dust will be used in the business; however, Roark refutes the idea citing federal regulations that prohibit antibiotic dust to be used for Grade A dairy cattle.
   Some citizens have prepared literature opposing Carolina Holsteins, stating concerns about degradation of the land, contamination of the water and a decline in property values. Residents are also worried a foul odor will continuously permeate Roan Valley.
   "He wants to invest and run a legitimate business. We have done everything we can to address their concerns," said Roark.
   County Mayor Dick Grayson said even though many citizens are against a CAFO locating in Johnson County, there is virtually nothing the county can do to stop it.
   "Legally I don't think there is anything that we could use to stop it. We don't have any ordinances or zoning that would keep this from coming in," said Grayson.
   During last week's meeting of the Johnson County Commission, commissioners approved a resolution asking the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to deny a permit for the CAFO.
   While Grayson originally tried to remain neutral about the situation, he said he changed his mind after severe flooding that occurred on Nov. 19 in the county. Grayson surveyed damage from a helicopter and said floodwaters covered a vast portion of land in the area of the proposed CAFO.
   Federal regulations require that Anderson create holding ponds for waste on the dairy farm; however, Grayson said that, should another flood occur, he doubts holding ponds could completely contain such large quantities of water.
   "If the waste would have been overflowed, it would have gone right down on the people," Grayson said.
   Anderson's new facility will create 50 jobs in Johnson County while also pouring money into county coffers during the construction and building phase. Anderson chose the area in Johnson County because of the mild climate, which is good for dairy cattle, and the transportation network of Interstates 26 and 81.
   Anderson hopes to have the CAFO running by spring of 2005, when he plans to increase the number of cattle he owns from 500 to 700.