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County may take over dead-animal pick-up

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Animals may be taken to Nelson County landfill

By Stephen Lega

The Marion County Fiscal Court spent more than an hour Monday afternoon discussing its options for dealing with dead animals. No decisions were made, but the magistrates spoke favorably of having the county take over dead animal removal.

The county has not had dead animal removal since its private service provider suspended its service Feb. 27.

Keith Brock, the county solid waste and environmental coordinator, prepared information for the fiscal court explaining what the county would need to do to take over dead animal removal. The county would need a truck that meets state and federal regulation and permitting requirements with a winch big enough to move the carcasses.

The county may be able to haul animals to the Nelson County landfill for composting. Brock and Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly both indicated that Nelson County officials were open to the idea of expanding their county's existing solid waste disposal agreement with Marion County.

Other options include finding a spot in the county to compost smaller animals (such as poultry).

Gene Lanham of the Marion County Cattleman's Association and Joe Paul Mattingly of the Marion County Farm Bureau attended the Monday meeting.

"This is everybody's problem," Lanham said. "This is not just a farmers' problem."

Joe Paul Mattingly agreed, saying that dead animals handled improperly may contaminate water and soil.

Lanham said he thought most farmers would be willing to pay a small fee. Joe Paul Mattingly agreed, but he also proposed including a $1 fee on water bills as another option to defray the costs.

County officials said it's likely the county may need to charge a fee, possibly as much as $20 per animal, to cover the county's costs.

County officials have also spoken with Lebanon city officials about possibly using an old sewer plant truck to transport the animals. Judge Mattingly said the regulations for the sewer plant truck are similar to the regulations for a truck used to haul dead animals.

City Administrator John Thomas said that city and county officials have discussed a temporary lease agreement for the county to use the truck.

"It's going to boil down to what they have to do to modify our truck to get it permitted," Thomas said.

Previously, the county contracted with Nation Brothers to pick up dead animals. Nation Brothers suspended its service as of Feb. 27 in response to a federal regulation that would require the brain and spine to be removed from bovine animals over 30 months old before the animals are rendered.

The rendering plant where Nation Brothers took its animals was going to charge six cents per pound to remove the brain and spine from the animals. For a 1,000-pound cow, the fee would be $60.

According to Gabe Nation of Nation Brothers, this would at least double his cost of doing business, and as a result he suspended the service and encouraged people to contact their federal legislators regarding the brain and spine regulation.

Monday, Judge Mattingly said there would be a 60-day stay on the implementation of the regulation, which was originally scheduled to take effect in April, but he does not believe any changes will be made in the regulation.

The stated purpose of the regulation is to reduce the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow disease," although Nation said previously that he is not convinced the regulation would affect the goal.

The regulation was put in place, in part, to continue the market for the rendered animals in Japan and South Korea, Judge Mattingly said.