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Town's residents fear SD dairy farm will poison lake they spent millions to clean

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The tireless efforts of community members have revitalized the Minnesota border town of Hendricks, but some residents say its fledgling renaissance is now under threat thanks to a proposed mega-dairy.

The jewel in the crown of the town is Lake Hendricks, a 1,500-acre body of water the community has spent 20 years and millions of dollars painstakingly cleaning up. Yet residents say all this work could be undermined if a 4,000-cow Global Dairy farm across the border in South Dakota is approved.

Civic leaders fear the farm's proximity to the lake could see pollution from 23.2 million gallons of manure leak into the water, the Star Tribune reports, after two decades of efforts to improve water conditions, with more than $5 million spent on lake-friendly farming measures and sewage improvements paid for by lake cabin owners.

The Hendricks City Council along with the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association (LHIA) filed a lawsuit last month against Brookings County, South Dakota, to stop the farm from going ahead, according to the Help Save Hendricks Lake Facebook page.

Lake improvements

Money has been poured into the lake in recent years, as the community worked to clean it up.

The Star Tribune says that more than 60 homes on either side of the lake have invested $12,000 in septic improvements, while $1.5 million has been spent on environmental testing and research.

"Lake Hendricks is a very shallow lake fed by surface water. We're exceptionally susceptible to runoff and so that's where are concerns are based," Mayor Jay Nelson (pictured at right) told KDLT.

The worry among some residents: With the farm spreading manure on grazing land and holding waste in lagoons close to a river that runs into the lake, it will likely affect the lake's water quality.

"The location of this dairy, in our opinion, poses a great risk to Lake Hendricks and the surrounding area," The LHIA said in a letter to local residents, according to the Hendricks Pioneer. It continued:

"The waste management plan for the dairy calls for the continued application of their waste product to surrounding fields – all of which will create run-off issues when draining into Lake Hendricks. If this happens, we could see a reduction of water quality in the lake, which in turn will impact tourism, fishing, camping and other recreational and economic benefits that are enjoyed in the area."

Cleaning up the lake is the centerpiece of the town's plans to attract young families and tourists as it fights against the declining population problems blighting many rural Minnesota towns. But it's not the only effort.

BringMeTheNews reported in October that Nelson is leading a project to re-open the town's movie theater, which closed 40 years ago. And the town recently underwent a rebranding effort thanks to Pizza Luce marketing director Corey Sax.

SD dairy expansion plans

Brookings County has not commented on the plans because of the lawsuit filed by the town, but the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports there has been a concerted efforts to build on the recent resurgence of South Dakota's dairy industry.

Central to the plans to grow the industry further has been efforts by South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugaard to entice milk-producers to relocate to the interstate 29 corridor, an area which includes the border near to Hendricks, the newspaper reports.

Should the dairy farm get the go-ahead, the governor's office has indicated it will not step in, and city council has little faith in the pollution control policies of South Dakota, which they feel is more reactive than pro-active, the Star Tribune reports.

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