Wisconsin residents urge DNR to deny renewal of pollutant discharge permit to state’s largest CAFO

Online Staff Report

ROSENDALE, Wis. — In written comments submitted to the Department of Natural Resources, concerned citizens of Wisconsin towns Ripon, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Pickett urged the agency to give careful review of critical issues that further degrade quality of life and health before granting Wisconsin’s largest livestock operation a renewal of their Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit.

The Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is in the town of Rosendale, 5 miles south of Pickett. Owned by Milk Source, LLC, Rosendale Dairy houses 9,400 cows and generates more than 100 million gallons of waste per year. This untreated toxic blend of feces, urine, antibiotics and hormones is spread over approximately 30,000 acres.

At stake is a reduction from the current 200-foot spreading setback from private wells and direct conduits to groundwater to 100 feet.

Mark Resch, retired Ripon High School chemistry teacher, observed: “At the public hearing, dairy officials boasted of operating under the strictest regulations of any CAFO in the state. Why, then, is Rosendale Dairy asking for a reduction in these restrictions?

The setback distance of 200 feet was adopted when DNR issued the original permit five years ago,” Resch added. “The same private wells, high-water tables, vast wetlands and fractured bedrock that dictated that setback are still present throughout the spreading areas.”

Also being challenged by People Empowered Protect the Land (PEPL) of Rosendale is a permit that utterly dismisses the longstanding injustice of stagnating manure pits (lagoons) remaining uncovered. These enormous cesspools that are used to store untreated liquid waste are continually releasing dangerously toxic air emissions.

The original WPDES permit was based on Rosendale Dairy’s submitted report that stated their air emissions would be zero because two of the three largest pits would be covered. DNR accepted this report as valid — yet failed to protect the community by requiring pit covers as part of the permit.

Judy and Gary Jolin, residents of rural Pickett, have lived for 35 years in their house 4 miles north of the dairy. Like others who have contacted DNR about the sickening stench, noise and truck traffic, Judy confirmed the lack of help from DNR.

I’m very concerned about the dairy’s air emissions descending on back yards in this community,” Judy Jolin said. “We’re likely breathing unsafe levels of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane. Yet, the DNR tells us they have no authority to regulate air emissions.”

Reviewing the permit for PEPL is an engineer with CAFO experience in 21 states who has identified some major flaws. DNR has allowed the inclusion of a new lagoon into the permit being reviewed. This 13.2 million-gallon waste pit is a function of the newly-proposed Biodigester System owned and operated by UW-Oshkosh Foundation and, therefore, must be evaluated in a totally separate permit.

Elaine Swanson, PEPL member living on a 50-acre wildlife sanctuary 1 mile from the factory farm, spoke at the public hearing about this suspicious inclusion.

In an earlier Air Pollution Permit for their proposed Biodigester System, the foundation took great pains to disassociate itself from all aspects of the Rosendale Dairy operation,” Swanson said. “Now, we see the foundation’s lagoon somehow slipped into the dairy’s WPDES permit. We, the people, would like full disclosure of all aspects of this industrial-sized operation. Until such time, we believe reissuance of Rosendale Dairy’s WPDES permit should be denied.”

Citizens in the area — as well as around the state — will be waiting for DNR’s response to public comments.

Posted Oct. 6, 2013

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