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  • Light pollution from tomato plant needs to be controlled, says Mona resident

LIGHT POLLUTION • Grow lights at Houweling Tomato Plant west of Mona are waking up some Mona residents.

By Myrna Trauntvein
Times-News Correspondent

Some Mona residents would like something done about the light pollution given off by the Houweling Tomato plant.
Emilee Watkins, a Mona resident, attended Juab County Commission meeting to request that something be done to control the light pollution which stems from the use of lights used to grow tomatoes in the green houses of Houweling Tomatoes.
"I am representing a number of people," said Watkins.
She said that, because of the time of day of the meeting, many parents of school-age children could not be present, but they also had concerns.
Watkins said there was also a concern among Mona citizens that, since the current plant had been advertised as phase one, that phases two, three and four would be built and that there would be even more light pollution emanating from the plant.
She wanted to know if Houweling Tomatoes had received approval from the county commission in the planning stages of the facility to be allowed to use such bright lights at night without a shield or blinds to protect the environment.
At that time, said Rick Carlton, commission chairman, the owners of the plant said that they would address that issue if it became a problem. There is a shielding type of blind that can be used to keep the light from creating light pollution.
"They have had to use that system in other areas," said Carlton.
When the lights switch on at midnight, the brightness wakes her children from their sleep. In fact, it is so bright at 3 a.m. that no one needs a light inside the house because they can see to navigate through their home.
"We can't see the stars in the sky anymore," she said. She had talked to owners of the nearby mink farm and they had told her that the light also interfered with the cycle of the mink.
It also affected livestock and interfered with their life cycle.
Watkins said that the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light, known as light pollution, can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and the climate.
Components of light pollution include:
Glare, the excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort; Skyglow, brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas; Light trespass, light falling where it is not intended or needed; and Clutter, bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources.
Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues.
Sara Samuelson, Mona's planning commission secretary, had informed the Watkins that the county had an ordinance already in place for dealing with light pollution.
Watkins said that in California there were six plants that could be seen from space. Even Rocky Ridge could see the bright lights coming from the plant and some parts of Nephi were affected by the bright lights on overcast nights.
Watkins said that she had emailed the plant several times and, she had noted that there were over 100 posts when the issue was posted on Facebook. Granted, she said, some of the posts were humorous but the majority were serious and were also bothered by the lights.
"It is total light pollution," she said.
Byron Woodland, commissioner, said that he could see the bright lights from the plant as he traveled to work in the mornings. In addition, he has a son and his son's family who all live in Mona.
Lynn Ingram, county road department superintendent, said that he lives in Mona, and said an eerie glow had been reported as being over the city. An airline pilot had requested to know what the problem was from the tower at Salt Lake Airport.
You are the fourth person to approach us," said Carlton.
He said he had a discussion with Casey Houweling, owner, before the plant was opened and was told that if there were problems the company would remedy them.
"My concern is that there will be no action," said Watkins.
Carlton suggested that Watkins circulate a petition and get names behind the comments that people had been making. In addition, he said, it would be good if Watkins could forward the Facebook comments to him.
Clinton Painter, commissioner, said that the more names that could be included on the list, the better.
He said that the commission could get a meeting set up.
"There has been no announcement of additional phases of Houweling's," said Carlton. "They have always been cooperative with the county."
Samuelson, who was also present, said that there was an ordinance on the books of Juab County that dealt with lights and businesses. The county commission needed to review that ordinance because, they way she understood it, the county was breaking their own ordinance by allowing it to continue.
"One person can make a difference," said Painter. "Thank you for stepping forward."