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POINT: Vote ‘yes’ for less slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls
Guest op-ed by Robert Peterson
Whether it’s the stench from six million pigs, threats to our water supply or plummeting property values, anyone who gets a whiff knows that massive new slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls are a rotten idea. That’s why we are asking our neighbors to vote YES for LESS stench, LESS water pollution and LESS trucks jamming our roads.
We’re far from alone. More than 10,000 residents signed our petition to give voters a chance to vote YES on the slaughterhouse ordinance. And more than 50 prominent Sioux Falls businesses and organizations echoed our concerns in a letter to city officials. Employers recognize what more mega-slaughterhouses could do to our city’s reputation as a destination for high-tech businesses and highly skilled professionals. Who wants to start up a new business or move their headquarters to Sewer Falls?
Opponents are defending controversial plans by Wholestone Farms to open a new industrial mega-slaughterhouse and wastewater lagoon in our city. They claim it won’t stink, but even Wholestone Vice President Katie Sinclair admitted, “I can’t promise it will never smell.” She’s right. Even if you could capture some odors inside the plant, millions of live animals arriving at the facility ‒ and all the waste coming out ‒ represent a significant threat to anyone downwind. Worse, there are no rules, regulations or laws on the books to hold them accountable for the stench.
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We face similar threats when it comes to water and traffic congestion.
Wholestone’s slaughterhouse would draw an additional 3 million gallons per day from our city’s water supply, making water scarcer for everyone else. The plant would guzzle up more water each day than 32,000 typical South Dakota residents.
Wholestone also plans to discharge its wastewater into the Big Sioux River. Pollution in the Big Sioux is already over the limit and last year earned an “F” grade for unsafe levels of sediment, E. coli and nitrates. Any significant increase from slaughterhouses would jeopardize water quality, recreation and wildlife – and potentially restrict future commercial development.
On traffic, it takes a lot of big trucks to import 6 million live pigs and then export 6 million dead pigs. Wholestone CEO Scott Webb said Sioux Falls can expect their proposed slaughterhouse to add “100-plus incoming trucks with live animals coming in per day and probably 120 to 130 finished-product trucks going out.” Yet we haven’t seen any traffic study.
Walking door to door collecting signatures, I talked to hundreds of residents. These are just a few of their concerns. Others are worried about property values and the threat to future growth.
For younger generations, this is the kind of issue that can make or break the decision to stay. We have greater flexibility, especially with remote work, to choose our destination based on quality of life, not just proximity to an empty desk. That’s why so many land in places like Salt Lake City and Indianapolis. Sioux Falls can’t reverse the drain on our workforce by driving out the best workers and jobs with foul odors, contaminated water and semi-trucks with live animals jamming the roads.
Of course, rather than consider other locations, Wholestone opted to wage a legal battle, trying to throw up a mini-butcher shop in an undisguised attempt to grandfather in a 6-million-hog slaughterhouse later – no matter what voters decide. Fortunately, the courts have already signaled that the law is on our side. That’s probably why slaughterhouse backers – including special interest groups outside Sioux Falls – poured cash into the opposition’s campaign.
But we won’t be steamrolled. Only local citizens – not Wholestone or anyone else – will decide if our city’s future is in Sioux Falls or Sewer Falls.
Robert Peterson is a Sioux Falls native and treasurer of Smart Growth Sioux Falls, a municipal ballot question committee dedicated to forward-thinking, sustainable development in city limits.