Demkota seeks permission to run pipe so lagoon can be drained into Moccasin Creek

Elisa Sand
Aberdeen News

The beef processing plant south of Aberdeen is interested in draining the water from one of its lagoons into Moccasin Creek, but Brown County commissioners are hesitant to grant approval.

Planning and Zoning Director Scott Bader met with commissioners Tuesday during their regular meeting and presented them with a request from New Angus, LLC, the company that operates DemKota Ranch Beef.

The plant's proposal is to pump water out of a lagoon from July through September using a pipe that runs to the creek, Bader said.

"They want to lower the lagoon to make repairs," he said. "This is the same lagoon they requested to irrigate on a farmer’s land."

The request to drain the lagoon using an irrigation pivot came before the county commission in May 2021 and was approved in September. It was sought under the terms of a solid waste permit approved by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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The lagoon system at DemKota Ranch Beef has two cells, with the east cell used for operations and discharged to the city's water reclamation plant. The west cell, which is about double the capacity of the east cell, is for emergency use. According to information presented at the 2021 hearing, the lagoon was holding approximately 40 million gallons of water and had been full for about 10 years.

While its use was approved, Bader said the irrigation pivot hasn't been used. He said his understanding is the agreement with the farmer fell through.

The goal of the irrigation pivot request was to empty the larger lagoon on the west side. At the time, plant officials said they were receiving pressure from the state to empty it, but they couldn't get approval to pump into Moccasin Creek because of nutrients in the water.

Bader said that when he recently asked for a formal request concerning the pipe, he received limited information. He did not recommend granting approval. The high water level at Moccasin Creek is one of his concerns.

Ultimately, commissioners did not act on the pipe request as some worry that approval is needed from another agency before installation. Commissioners said the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources needs to approve the request first.

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Bader also expressed concern about determining the scope of construction activity at the plant and whether it is covered by active permits. He said he's heard there is equipment on site for a rendering plant, but even if a rendering plant was part of the original plans submitted to the city, any building permits that might have been issued then are long expired. Most building permits are good for no more than two years, he said.

Until three years ago, Aberdeen had joint zoning jurisdiction within 3 miles of the city limits and would have handled such a permit request.