They already have horses, chickens and geese on their small half-acre lot in Wellfleet, and now Judy and Fred Tesson want to raise 10 pigs. But the board of health, when it met last week to consider their application to amend their farm animal permit to include the pigs, put off a decision until the Tessons return with more information about where the pig compost pile will be in relation to their drinking water well and the wells of their neighbors.
They already have horses, chickens and geese on their small half-acre lot in Wellfleet, and now Judy and Fred Tesson also want to raise 10 pigs as a source of food for their family.
But the board of health, when it met Oct. 14 to consider their application to amend their farm animal permit to include the pigs, put off a decision until the Tessons return with more information about where the pig compost pile will be in relation to their drinking water well and the wells of their neighbors.
Fred Tesson said several of their neighbors already have horses and other animals. They have never complained about the Tessons’ animals impacting their water supply.
But the board of health was not even aware that the Tessons had raised pigs last year until their neighbors, Heinz and Monique Weinmann, sent the board a letter reporting that when they returned in April from their home in Canada, they found “eight large pigs … wallowing along the fence between our two properties, wallowing in mud mixed with urine and feces which oozed through our fence.”
Hilary Greenberg, the health agent, along with Andy Pettit, the assistant health agent, raised concerns that the addition of 10 pigs will adversely impact the water quality in that neighborhood.
The Tessons’ well tested over the federal limit for nitrates in 2004, and tested just below that limit in 2009. An excess of nitrates in the water could indicate the presence of contaminants, possibly harmful to health, in the water.
Board member Richard Willecke said, “We already have a property that has three horses. Then to put on top of that 10 pigs, it seems to me we might as well throw out the book for everybody in town and that we shouldn’t be regulating anyone. … Given we already have water problems, I really could not support this. It is too many animals already on too small a property. We are the board of health. We do have very porous soil. I just feel this is way too much and we have never approved this for anyone else.”
Judy Tesson said they get the pigs in September or October, and then raise them until they reach 200 pounds, usually by April. They then send them off to be slaughtered, and live off the meat.
Board member Lezli Rowell suggested the board could find a way to work with the Tessons, perhaps by limiting the number of pigs.
Alex Hay, another board member, said he was not against people raising animals on their land, but the nitrates issue concerned him. “Your test results with nitrates could signify a whole lot of other stuff getting into your water that you don’t even know about. Your compost pile is less than 100 feet away from your well and that’s a concern. You should be very concerned about that.”
Hay said if the couple came up with an adequate manure management plan he would be more comfortable working with them on their proposal.
Chris Carson, representing the Weinmanns, said the Weinmanns are in favor of the Tessons’ proposal, provided the pigs could be kept “as far away as possible” from their property, and suggested another location on the Tesson land.
“These people are being extraordinarily fair,” Carson said. “They are willing to work with you folks and I recommend you take that into consideration.”
Judy Tesson said she and her husband are trying to be green and to support themselves with their farm. While some people might like to raise chickens, “I don’t think a lot of people want to raise pigs. They can be a little more adventurous.”
Hay said, “It’s not the pigs. It’s the lot and the location. Your well is already testing high for nitrates. If we can work a plan out, with some sort of zero change of manure getting into the ground, which I don’t know is possible, I’d be more comfortable.”
Judy Tesson agreed to return with more information.
The Cape Codder