Future of Swift's Cabel Street Lot Could Hinge on Public Health Concerns
A neighborhood group is hoping concerns about public health and the environment will factor into a city board’s decision to grant a conditional use permit to pork producer JBS Swift.
Swift has been operating a slaughterhouse in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood for decades. For the past nine years, the company has also been using a nearby lot on Cabel Street as a staging area for its trucks. Until earlier this year, the company was renting the lot from the Metropolitan Sewer District. Swift bought the lot for $790,000 in 2014, though questions were raised about the process.
Now, the staging lot is a permanent fixture in Butchertown, and Swift is seeking a conditional use permit from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to continue using it as such. The Butchertown Neighborhood Association opposes the company's request; its members say the lot creates numerous public health and environmental concerns.
One of those is diesel emissions, which have been found to be a human carcinogen.
Swift is slaughtering nearly 44,000 hogs a week at its plant, and it keeps a lot of the pork cold in refrigerated trucks until it's transported elsewhere. Those refrigerated trucks are parked on the Cabel Street lot and run 24/7. Trucks burn about a gallon of diesel fuel per hour, and there are additional trucks entering and leaving the lot.
Swift attorney Bart Greenwald said his client doesn’t think neighborhood concerns about air pollution have substance.
“We put on several experts to show why there is no danger to the public,” he said, referring to a zoning hearing on Monday. Swift presented evidence from air modeling showing that the company’s contributions to the area were minimal.
But the Butchertown Neighborhood Association disagrees. It called on environmental engineer Sarah Lynn Cunningham to testify Monday about the flaws in the Swift expert’s testimony.
Other concerns include noise, traffic and pedestrian and bicycle safety.
“There’s some serious public health threats to people living near that lot,” said BNA attorney Jon Salomon.
He said the current use of the Cabel Street lot also doesn’t comply with the Land Development Code, which includes restrictions on truck idling during the night.
“And the law clearly requires the board to impose conditions and restrictions on that use to make sure it’s in compliance with the law before they approve a conditional use permit,” he said.
Because the trucks parked at Cabel Street are non-stationary emissions sources, the Louisville Air Pollution doesn't have regulatory authority over them. But the APCD will respond to concerns about dust or odors leaving the property.
Since 2011, the agency has issued Swift 27 Notices of Violation totaling more than $100,000, all but one for objectionable odors coming from the plant. None of the violations has been settled, but a spokesman said the APCD is still pursuing a settlement.
Swift is scheduled to offer a rebuttal to the Butchertown Neighborhood Association on Oct. 19.