Judge bars Missouri from moving ahead on Randolph County waste lagoon permit

Nearby residents sued the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, alleging the state agency improperly issued a draft permit for the lagoon

By: - September 1, 2023 6:00 am

A Missouri judge has temporarily barred the state from moving ahead with a permit for an animal waste lagoon in Randolph County. (USGAO/Wikipedia)

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is barred from moving forward with a permit for an animal waste lagoon north of Columbia following a judge’s ruling Thursday.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green issued a writ of prohibition in a case Randolph County residents filed against the state. The department can’t take further action without court permission.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said the state agency does not comment on pending litigation. 

The lawsuit stems from a proposed permit for Denali Water Solutions, an Arkansas-based waste disposal company, to build a lagoon in Randolph County. Local residents have objected, raising concerns about the smell and detrimental effects to neighbors.

“A lagoon like this full of food wastes, industrial sludges, animal processing wastes and grease will be a disaster for the local area,” Steve Gieseking, a farmer and member of Citizens of Randolph County Against Pollution, or CRAP, said in a press release.

Denali did not immediately return a request for comment. 

CRAP’s lawsuit claims Denali built an earthen basin capable of holding 15 million gallons without a construction permit. The company then applied for a permit from DNR, according to the lawsuit, to apply waste from the lagoon to surrounding land as fertilizer. 

Filings with DNR said the basin will hold “wastewater residuals from various food and vegetable processing plants, animal processing plants, and animal food processing plants, processing wash-down rinse water, dissolved air flotation skimmings, waste activated sludge, wastewater lagoon sludge and grease trap waste,” the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit says the company presented itself as primarily a “soil preparation services” business,” but it has received more than 250 permits in Arkansas as a “refuse systems” company.”

In July, DNR issued a draft permit to Denali, which CRAP is challenging, noting Denali constructed the basin without a permit. The lawsuit argues the state applied a permit exemption Denali isn’t eligible for when it didn’t require the company to obtain a construction permit. 

“CRAP alleges that DNR failed to require Denali to obtain the proper permits under the Missouri Solid Waste Management Law…a process that can take several years,” the news release says.

DNR has not yet filed a response.

Sharon Turner, a fellow CRAP member, said in the news release that the group formed to bring public attention to the issue.

She said: “We just do not believe it is right for a waste disposal company to tell DNR they are in the agricultural business just so they can get a permit.”

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Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on energy, the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she previously covered City Hall for The Kansas City Star, as well as state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City.