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Fumes From Iowa Hog-Manure Pit Kill Father and Son

Posted by on Aug. 8, 2015 at 1:30 PM
  • 7 Replies

Fumes From Iowa Hog-Manure Pit Kill Father and Son

| Thu Jul. 30, 2015 6:56 PM EDT

Hogs in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). Note the slatted floor.

Here's another reason why Americans should think twice about how the United States is emerging as the globe's hog farm: concentrating thousands of hogs in one place means concentrating huge amounts of their shit, too; and that shit puts off gases that are so noxious that they can kill people who work near them. Think I'm exaggerating? Get this, from the Des Moines Register:

A father and his son who were so close that they were “like glue” were killed Saturday by noxious fumes from a northwest Iowa hog manure pit—the second father and son in the Midwest to die of poisonous manure pit gases this month.

These large, indoor facilities confine hogs above their own waste on a slatted floor—the waste falls through the slats and collects in a pit below. An incredibly putrid aroma—I've smelled it—shrouds these facilities. The air contains hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds. Hogs can live above these poison-gas cesspools because giant fans keep the air moving. But when something goes wrong beneath the slats, workers have to venture into places where there is no effective ventilation. And that's what happened on this Iowa hog farm, to heartbreaking effect.

The two were repairing a pump at a hog confinement when a piece of equipment they were using fell into the manure pit, Wempen [a relative] said. Austin Opheim went into the pit first to retrieve the equipment, and his father followed him after realizing his son had been overcome by gases, Wempen said. ...  “(Gene) was carrying Austin on his back and bringing him up and he got almost to the top and he got overcome, and down they went,” she said.

An eerily similar father-son tragedy occurred in Wisconsin earlier in July.

Such disasters can usually be averted by donning proper breathing equipment when venturing beneath the slats. But in recent years, Midwestern hog facilities have been beset by a mysterious foam that settles at the surface of manure pits, which creates a buildup of volatile gases that that has caused many explosions. Back in June, two workers at a Minnesota hog farm died in a fire that erupted after they had been cleaning the slats of an empty hog facility—apparently the result of "power-washing activities bursting the foam bubbles in the manure pit" below. And last year, reports the trade journal Pork Network, a "similar fire in Iowa severely burned Leon Sheets, a past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, as he power-washed one of his hog barns."

Nerds Without Pants

by on Aug. 8, 2015 at 1:30 PM
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Replies (1-7):
TommieToo
by Silver Member on Aug. 8, 2015 at 4:35 PM

Not surprising, the environment is 'up' for the highest political donations.  Damn what is right for "we the people"!

GLWerth
by Gina on Aug. 8, 2015 at 4:42 PM

DH grew up working on farms. His response to this was that if you lose a tool or piece of equipment into the manure pit (of any kind, not just pigs), you just get a new one. No point in dying for a tool.

If you operate a larger scale operation, then you should have the proper gear for going down into the pit.

In the end, a lot of these deaths come from people not observing proper and sensible safety procedures.

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Aug. 8, 2015 at 5:15 PM
1 mom liked this

What a terrible workplace hazard.

Maybe I need to rethink the love of pork chops.

squeekers
by Silver Member on Aug. 8, 2015 at 5:18 PM
1 mom liked this
If dumps can collect & syphon off-gases for collecting as do some cattle ranches, why don't pig farms?
stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Aug. 9, 2015 at 12:17 AM
Those concentrated pig feeding farms are pretty bad. The manure can also explode into a giant poop geyser. Also it can seep into land and water supplies. It is really toxic. Like stated above, death toxic. I'm sorry to hear about the farmers, I have heard of these types of accidents before.
Ziva65
by Gold Member on Aug. 9, 2015 at 1:41 AM

yes, that's what I was thinking too!

Quoting Sisteract:

What a terrible workplace hazard.

Maybe I need to rethink the love of pork chops.


DisabledVet
by Silver Member on Aug. 9, 2015 at 3:54 AM

Exactly why I do not support corporate farms. Animals deserve to be treated humanly if they're being raised to feed us. Small farms treat their animals humanly, corporate farms don't.

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