The rules include certain practices farmers must follow, such as avoiding certain areas to reduce the possibility of polluting groundwater. "Currently, regulations are uniform across the state. Special action must be taken in eastern Wisconsin in order to meet the groundwater standard, according to the department."
It’s been a bad summer for Madison-area lakes. The Yahara River between lakes Mendota and Monona last month became a dead zone after green scum covered the surface. Heavy and frequent rain washed huge amounts of soil, manure and other phosphorus-laden material into the water, triggering the largest bloom of blue-green algae on Lake Mendota since 1994, according to the UW-Madison Center for Limnology. And when the algae dies and decomposes, it reduces oxygen in the water, killing fish.
Because the liquid-manure environment lacks sufficient oxygen for complete decomposition, the system becomes anaerobic (without oxygen) and the manure putrefies. During the putrefaction of manure, more than 300volatile organic compounds of varying degrees of toxicity are produced
Their plans changed when a neighboring dairy applied to expand its concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.
In May 2016, Emerald Sky Dairy owner Todd Tuls of Tuls Dairies applied to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to expand from 2,460 to 8,804 animal units.
Tuls, who took ownership in March 2016, came under fire earlier this year when the WDNR launched an investigation of a large-scale manure spill at the Emerald facility, which occurred in late 2016 and went unreported until March 29.
The degradation of Wisconsin’s groundwater and surface water is increasing at an appalling pace. Research shows that CAFOs are a major contributor to this degradation. Citizens across the state are rising to the challenge of protecting and restoring Wisconsin’s water quality. As an organization committed to this challenge, Emerald Clean Water for All is proud to stand with Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network and all of its member organizations in support of their CAFO Moratorium effort.
Get more info and sign the petition at https://sustainruralwisconsin.org/support-the-moratorium-sign-on-today/
When will Wisconsin choose a course correction that no longer encourages increasing milk production in a glutted market, or further expansions of CAFOs that require land-spreading of millions of gallons of liquid manure over known vulnerable land, or the drilling of ever-more high-capacity wells? It will happen only when we, individual citizens of Wisconsin, get involved and require that our legislators demand a more reasoned approach and more accountability.
Environmental groups and citizen coalitions, especially in Kewaunee County, have been pushing for reforms.
"We can debate why it took so long to get here, but the bottom line is once the governor and DNR recognized this is a problem, we can't ignore any longer, it got on a fast pace," Prehn said.
Studies funded by organizations like Iowa’s Center for the Health Effects of Environmental Contamination identify a host of negative health effects from nitrates, including bladder and thyroid cancer, and birth defects such as brain and spinal cord abnormalities.
“When you have farmers themselves saying there’s too much milk out there, you know that’s a problem,” said Steven Deller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agricultural economist.
Now, even some farmers normally against intervention in the free market are calling for some type of supply management system to help keep things in balance.
Yes, our state can tout these new records but the real winners are hard to find. When will Wisconsin choose a course correction that no longer encourages increasing milk production into a glutted market or further expansions requiring the land spreading of millions of gallons of liquid manure over known vulnerable land, or the drilling of ever more high-capacity wells? Only when we, the individual citizens of Wisconsin get involved and require that our legislators demand a more reasoned approach and more accountability. Take the time to contact those who represent you and your area. Today is not too soon to start.
The letter from the La Crosse County Health Department came as a shock to Bryana Alameida. She and her husband, Josh, moved last fall into the new home they built in the August Prairie subdivision in the town of Holland with their two young children. Here they were, only half a year in their new home, and the county was warning their water might not be safe to drink.
“We used to live in the city of Holmen and water was never really a concern to us,” said Alameida, who runs her own photography business. “I’m just wondering why we didn’t know anything about this before.”
"Maybe the most troubling part of all, however, was the DNR’s response when La Crosse County officials sought state records documenting groundwater problems near that concentrated animal feeding operation.
"Here’s what DNR spokesman Jim Dick told the Tribune: “The DNR doesn’t have a policy regarding notifying municipalities or private well owners in the vicinity when a CAFO violates a permit.”
"Let’s pause on that: A state agency that collects data about environmental quality doesn’t care enough about public health to alert people or the counties where they live about a potential problem with the water they drink.
"Shouldn’t the DNR, shouldn’t someone with the state, care enough about the health of its citizens to alert them to potential problems with drinking water?
"Or, is Wisconsin so entirely open for business that it simply doesn’t care about people anymore?"
Industry groups chafed at pumping limits, and said the DNR was overstepping its authority. But independent scientific studies linked high-capacity wells to dwindling water levels that were alarming waterfront homeowners, vacationers and fishing enthusiasts. The GOP’s majority in the Legislature failed several times to pass legislation removing regulations.
In 2016, a committee of GOP legislators led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, asked Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to issue a formal opinion on well regulation. Schimel said the DNR had overstepped the authority, and the agency stopped making well permitting decisions based on environmental impact of all wells in an area.
Now permits are decided based on the affect of wells on the well owner’s property, without regard to how much is being withdrawn by surrounding wells.
In spite of court decisions that require the Department of Natural Resources to manage the waters of Wisconsin for the mutual benefit of all users in accordance with the state constitution, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp chooses not to do so. She relies on a nonbinding opinion by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel rather than following the constitution, the courts, and the broad statutory authority granted her department by the Legislature.
"I am baffled and hugely disappointed that current Republicans who control state government would so openly fail their oath to uphold the constitution of the state of Wisconsin."
Runoff from farms is the main source of phosphorus pollution in a growing number of Wisconsin lakes that are listed as “impaired” by the unnatural weed and algae growth the nutrient causes.
Controlling farm runoff has become a major problem in a state that prides itself both in its powerful agriculture industryand its sparkling lakes and streams.
What we need is supply management, which would promote fair prices for farmers, a stable supply for consumers and possibly some protection for the environment by limiting the growth of CAFOs. That's not what the state is encouraging.
“It’s my professional opinion, based on 25 years of experience, that if we sampled more than once, (the contamination rate) would creep up to 90 percent,” Mark Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, told the crowd.
Many Kewaunee residents living with water contaminated by bovine manure have absolutely no idea what the DNR's plans are, or how their household can receive help. Homeowners are not only left with the very expensive cleanup costs of well remediation, but must also decipher what system would work in their home, and effectively address their particular contamination issue. Politicians touting low-cost loans to address the contamination offer little solace to citizens suffering from water contamination due to no fault of their own. New wells have been drilled, only to have them come up contaminated in a short duration of time.
Environmental groups and citizen coalitions, especially in Kewaunee County, have been pushing for reforms."We can debate why it took so long to get here, but the bottom line is once the governor and DNR recognized this is a problem, we can't ignore any longer, it got on a fast pace," Prehn said.
"In particular, large vegetable growers and other mega farms sharply increased their contributions to GOP legislative fundraising committees during the second half of 2016 after a similar bill failed to pass early last year. Large potato and vegetable growers doled out more than $136,000 in individual and corporate campaign contributions in 2016 to current legislators, including about $126,300 to Republicans and $10,250 to Democratic lawmakers."