Guest Column: Huge dairies expanding in Wisconsin

Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards

Editor’s note: The following column appeared as a paid advertisement in the Galena Gazette.

COLOMA, Wis. — Several events in recent weeks have shown the fight against concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the Central Sands is heating up.

First, Friends of the Central Sands (FOCS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting natural resource stewardship in Wisconsin’s Central Sands, was granted its requests for Contested Case hearings to review DNR’s approval of two high-capacity wells for the Richfield Dairy, the DNR approval of plans and specifications for the dairy, and the approval of the WPDES permit. Richfield Dairy is a proposed dairy CAFO in eastern Adams County that would house 4,550 cows and steers, or 6,270 animal units. FOCS, along with several local residents and land owners and Family Farm Defenders, filed lawsuits along with the request for Contested Case hearing following the WDNR’s approval in early November.

We were gratified that our requests for hearing were granted, and look forward to a closer examination of the high-capacity wells and plans and specifications,” said Bill Vance.

The high-capacity well permit approval caps the dairy’s annual water withdrawals at 131 million gallons, yet evidence was submitted to the DNR that a lower amount of annual withdrawal — 52 million gallons — would lower levels in nearby lakes by an average of 2 inches per year and would reduce stream flows by 5 percent. The DNR stated that it did not view these reductions as a “significant adverse environmental impact.” While recognizing and agreeing with the impact based on 52 million gallons, the DNR actually approved an amount 2.5 times that amount. Equally concerning, several world-class trout streams would be impacted by this as well. Additional research has shown that pumping at the approved rate of 131 million gallons per year will reduce stream volumes in some sections by 10 percent or more having a significant negative impact.

Second, it was recently confirmed that a second dairy CAFO under construction in Adams County is already planning to double in size, to a staggering 9,100 animals on site. This dairy, known as the New Chester Dairy, is proposed by Milk Source Holdings, LLC, the same corporation seeking approval for the Richfield Dairy. The New Chester Dairy and Richfield Dairy are only about 10 miles apart, and more alarmingly, the New Chester Dairy is located only about 1 mile east of the Grand Marsh Grade School.

According to documents New Chester Dairy has submitted to the DNR, the doubled-up facility, if approved, would be the largest dairy in the state of Wisconsin. In brief:

100 million gallons of manure per year would be generated from the facility every year.

The dairy’s three waste storage ponds would have a combined capacity of 63.1 million gallons.

14,000 truckloads of manure would leave the facility every year.

The dairy would utilize more than 38,000 acres of land for spreading manure and process wastewater every year, mostly through leases.

This is in addition to the more than 16,000 acres Richfield Dairy will require for manure spreading for a total of more than 54,000 acres.

For perspective, Adams County has 63,000 acres of crop land available for manure spreading.

Where are they going to spread this waste?” asked Ruth Simpson, board member for Family Farm Defenders. “There are 23,040 acres in a township, which are 6 square miles. New Chester will spread well over a township’s worth of manure, and adding Richfield is like adding another township for spreading manure. Unbelievable.”

Our worst fears are being confirmed,” said local resident Terry Tinkle. “We have always publicly expressed our concern about the expansion of these dairies, and this confirms it. Phase II of New Chester raises serious concerns that Richfield will be expanded in the future, too.”

Although Milk Source’s application to the DNR does not quantify projected air emissions, DNR has previously estimated that dairies half the size of New Chester will generate hundreds of tons of ammonia and methane per year, as well as volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and acetaldehyde.

Is anyone paying attention to the public health impacts of the New Chester expansion? The New Chester CAFO is located about a mile from Grand Marsh Grade School where children will be exposed to the odors and emissions from manure and other waste,” Tinkle added.

We strongly encourage the DNR, Adams County Public Health Department, and Adams County Planning and Zoning Department to closely scrutinize this expansion request and ensure public health,” concluded FOCS’s Bob Clarke.

FOCS continues to play a role to ensure the stewardship of the natural environment in the Central Sands and is currently involved in other activities such as the development of a groundwater coalition in the Central Sands and supporting the efforts of Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network, a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to preserving the environment while maintaining the health and economic vitality of rural communities.

We have important work to do protecting our natural world, and opposing the Richfield Dairy is critical in accomplishing this mission,” said Bob Clarke. “We will continue as long as necessary.”

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From the Feb. 29-March 6, 2012, issue

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