Neighbors protest moving pigs for Bush library

THE BALTIMORE SUN

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- What will be the grounds of George Bush's presidential library now houses Texas A&M; University's pig farms, and angry residents of two nearby communities have organized against plans by the university to move the 800 porkers into their area to make room for it.

"Any norther is going to inundate my house with smell," said Tam Garland, a teaching and research veterinarian at A&M; whose property is 300 yards from the pigs' planned new home. "If George Bush's library wasn't going to be there, the chances of moving the swine center probably would be nil."

University officials have insisted that relocating the pigs has been considered for decades. In recent months, they appeared reluctant to compromise despite a campaign accusing the administration of ignoring residents' concerns and even of environmental racism.

But Tuesday, Texas A&M; President Ray Bowen publicly apologized for various "stupid" and "dumb" moves by the school and offered to consider alternative sites.

The swine center will be temporarily removed from the bidding process for constructing an animal research complex.

"Obviously, we did a poor job in keeping the community informed," Mr. Bowen told 23 residents, many of them leaders of Residents Against Pigs and Livestock.

From now on, he said, a working group of area residents will be welcome to attend planning meetings on the swine question.

"We will make a good-faith effort to put it [the swine center] somewhere else," said the university president, who later acknowledged that there have been no ground water studies or adequate studies on the environmental effect.

But the university will go ahead with its new research complex, which the pigs would have joined. Eventually, the center will hold sheep and goats and an animal behavior building along with the already completed beef center, he said.

"We have people all over the state relying on the work we do," Mr. Bowen said. "We are not free to shut down our activities."

Dr. Garland countered Mr. Bowen's offer. She asked that any further work on the entire Animal Science Teaching and Research Complex be stopped until a new swine site is chosen. Mr. Bowen called for a group of six residents to work out an agreement.

Afterward, Al Schaffer, an A&M; sociology professor and a nearby resident, expressed surprise at Mr. Bowen's offer.

"I never expected a university official to make the concession they did," he said.

The complex, about four miles west of the campus, lies across the road from a century-old African-American community of 200 called Brushy and adjoining Franklin Estates, a suburban community of about 150 where many current and retired A&M; faculty members live.

Several residents told Mr. Bowen that they had never been informed or consulted before the university applied for state permits for the swine center.

That prompted Grover Hawkins, a Houston attorney retained by residents, to say, "You have a community of color that has not been considered or talked to about the odor, air pollution, water pollution -- in your own words -- since 1979."

Mr. Bowen told the group that A&M; wants to be held to the "highest standards of environmental justice." Then he urged residents, "Give us a little slack to prove our worth."

During the two-hour meeting, residents discussed what they said are examples of university insensitivity or worse. "It's very disappointing to be a longtime faculty member and to be lied to," said Ruth Schaffer, a retired A&M; sociology professor. "We haven't gotten clear answers to anything."

She said inaccurate or out-of-date information on swine-sludge lagoons and demographics was disseminated by university officials.

Ms. Schaffer also bemoaned the lack of studies on the effects on people and the environment, even though A&M; has experts in those areas on its staff.

Mr. Bowen acknowledged that "it's a . . . problem for you and it's not good for us, either. . . . Somehow, we messed up."

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