Local farmers claim $2.24 million in future damages
Opening up a new chapter in the debate surrounding the membrane bioreactor sewer plant (MBR), a group of farmers and landowners have filed a Notice of Claim with Santaquin City alleging “private property damages.”
The claim was filed last month by the legal counsel representing Kenyon Farley, owner of Royal Apple Sales Inc. in Santaquin. He, Irene Farley, John and Nancy Farley, and Terry Pyne are all mentioned in the claim notice that seeks compensation for loss of fruit production revenue in the future.
According to the claim filed with the city on March 7, Farley and his constituents expect damages to the tune of $2.24 million to their fruit-producing orchard land. The claim projects losses to “56 acres of producing orchard land” if the MBR is constructed on its proposed site location north of Highline Canal in town.
The claim states that Santaquin City was “notified that placement of the wastewater treatment plant as indicated on the Proposed Sewer Site, within a quarter mile of the producing fruit orchards, would place those orchards in violation of standards imposed by internationally-standardized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).”
Although the claim does not indicate who specifically notified the city or which GLOBALG.A.P standards the notice of claim is referring to, it does say this:
“International GAP standards are currently being revised; it is expected, however, that operation of a wastewater treatment plant within one-quarter mile of a producing orchard will render that orchard ineligible for commercial fruit production under international GAP standards.”
It goes on to state that Santaquin City was “urged” to construct the new MBR plant on the site where the current city sewer lagoons are now located, but Santaquin rejected that alternative. The MBR, or waste reclamation facility, is slated to be under construction as early as this week adjacent to the orchard properties owned by Farley and the other claimants. Flatiron Construction Corp. has been given a Notice to Proceed with the construction.
The claim seeks damages at $40,000 per acre for the 56 acres located within a quarter mile of the MBR location. Several orchards fall in the quarter-mile radius of that location.
Upon investigation using Google Earth maps, it is evident that a number of orchards fall within a quarter-mile radius of the current sewer lagoon system as well. Those orchards have operated in close proximity to the Santaquin City sewer lagoons for more than 14 years.
In the claim it suggests an alternative to the $2.24 million compensation. In lieu of paying the alleged damages, it states that Santaquin can construct the new MBR on the site of the current sewer lagoons instead, putting the facility well out of the quarter-mile radius of Farley’s orchards, but within a quarter mile of orchards currently operating near the sewer lagoons.
Farley and his legal counsel have not responded to interview requests, but Farley is already well known as an outspoken opponent of the MBR’s construction, telling inSantaquin News two months ago in a phone interview that he would do “anything necessary to protect his orchards.”
South Ridge Farms, who operate orchard land in proximity to the current sewer lagoons, refrained from commenting on the situation other than to say that they have no preference as to where the MBR is constructed.
Due to the litigation process, Santaquin City officials said they cannot comment on whether they will approve or deny the claim. Under Utah State Code, the city has 60 days to respond to the notice of claim. Not officially a lawsuit, the claim is a first step in litigation against the municipality. The Government Immunity Act of Utah (Title 63G, Chapter 7, Section 403) states that a claimant can “institute an action in the district court against the governmental entity” if their claim is denied, meaning that a lawsuit cannot be filed until Notice of Claim measures are made.
Santaquin City will need to decide by early May whether to approve or deny the claim; at the rate the city is going, however, ground will be broken on the Highline Canal site for construction of the MBR before then.
In the event that their claim is denied by Santaquin City, Farley and the other claimants will then have one year to determine possible action if necessary.