Taking aim at groundwater contamination from disposal of livestock manure in Wisconsin

Editor’s note: The following was sent to officials in Dodge County, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin state legislators. It is reprinted here as a Letter to the Editor.

Dodge County officials and state legislators:

Please read the attached news article (“Seven Sickened By Tainted Wells,” by Jim Lundstrom, Nov. 14, 2014, Pulse, Door County’s resource for the arts, news and entertainment) of another well contamination event from livestock manure, this time in Door County. Seven people were sickened by ingesting manure-contaminated well water, including the 4-month-old daughter of a family visiting West Jacksonport who became ill after being bottle fed her formula made with well water.

The Door County Board of Health has established a manure study group and plans to engage with state legislators to take action to deal with the problem.

I encourage Dodge County officials, especially our Human Services & Health Board, to contact their counterparts in Door County and the Wisconsin Counties and Towns associations to effect a concerted, broad-based advocacy effort at the state level.

Contact should be made to engage with our state legislators, DATCP, DNR and the Department of Health Services and request action, not merely a response of “We’ll take a look later.”

Management of DATCP, DNR and DHS act as though they are held in the warm embrace of the dairy industry lobbyists, and I don’t see Secs. Ben Brancel (Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection), Cathy Stepp (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) or Kitty Rhoades (Wisconsin Department of Health Services) taking the lead in effecting solutions to the manure disposal problem.

I believe we need to look to our state legislators for leadership. I hope that state Sens. Scott Fitzgerald and Luther Olsen and state Reps. Mark Born, John Jagler and Keith Ripp are up to the task.

Their colleague, Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere, was recently asked about well contamination problems in Kewaunee and Brown counties, and he said: Manure contamination. No problem. Just tell the homeowner to dig a deeper well (to paraphrase his comment).

I assume our state legislators do not share such ignorance and indifference to serious public health and water resource problems, and are willing to act in the best interests of all residents of our county, not just the dairy producers.

I recommend that concerted efforts be initiated now. The problem of groundwater contamination from disposal of livestock manure is not going to resolve itself.

Thank you,

Greg Farnham
Juneau, Wisconsin

From the Nov. 19-25, 2014, issue

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