Norway manure fears unfounded, selectmen say

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By Christopher Crosby

NORWAY — A state regulator and the town’s code enforcement officer say there’s nothing to fear from a hay farmer spreading manure in a field along Hobbs Pond, a selectman said Thursday, July 21.

The field, located near the Lakeview Cemetery on Watson Road, slopes down toward Little Pennessewassee Pond, known locally as Hobbs Pond. It is town-owned but leased to a local hay farmer, who in the course of growing a crop spreads manure.

At the town’s selectmen’s meeting last week, Selectman Thomas Curtis, who lives along the pond, said that the farmer was operating within state law.

The information appears to closes a months-long, sometimes contentious chapter between the board and a few residents, who asked selectmen two weeks ago to restrict its application as the manure may be running into a drain and down into the water, polluting it.

Curtis said Matthew Randall, an agricultural compliance supervisor with the Maine Department of Agricultural Conversation and Forestry, walked the the property on Tuesday, July 19, along with Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman.

The field is town-owned but leased to farmer Jerry Cleveland. In the course of the inspection, Curtis said Randall found no issues and reiterated that the onus for proving that a permitted practice was harmful fell to the complainant.

If neighbors think their wells, or the lake is contaminated, they have to prove it before they can ask for remediation, Curtis said.

Resident Steve Siskowitz, who said his well and the pond were in jeopardy of being contaminated, had not conducted testing. He previously complained he should not to have a problem before he was required to fix it. Siskowitz was not at Thursday’s meeting.

In May, selectmen voted to rescind an earlier decision establishing a 200-foot setback between the manure-spreading and abutting properties, after Cleveland objected it was stricter than the 25-foot federal setback requirement. The distance manure must be kept from a well, or body of water, is 100 feet.

That vote aligned the town with federal guidelines, although Cleveland said he was more cautious, spreading manure 75 feet away from neighbors.

ccrosby@sunjournal.com