Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Grande Cheese Company & Protient

— Working for Wisconsin Environmental Law Advocates, Midwest Environmental Advocates negotiated a settlement agreement with Grande Cheese Company and Protient, Inc, that protected a sensitive water body from further pollution.

Case Summary

In June of 2006, the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) issued water pollution discharge permits to Grande Cheese Company and Protient, Inc. Together, these permits increased the total amount of phosphorus and biological oxygen demand (“BOD”) discharged into North Fork Juda Branch, a tributary to the Sugar River. These permits failed to ensure that the permitted discharges will not further degrade the already impaired Creek and pristine downstream waters in Sylvester Creek, one of Wisconsin’s Exceptional Resource Waters.

The North Fork Juda Branch Creek is already impaired by low dissolved oxygen levels caused by BOD and phosphorus, yet these two new discharge permits allow even more of these pollutants to be discharged into the river.  Rather than improving the quality of the impaired North Fork Juda Branch Creek as required by state and federal law, DNR’s issuance of these permits increased the potential for additional problems in this waterway, including increased algae blooms. Algae blooms are caused, in part, by high phosphorus concentrations in the water.  

In August 2006, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed two petitions for adjudicatory hearings on behalf of Wisconsin Environmental Law Advocates (“WELA”), challenging the water pollution discharge permits DNR issued to Grande Cheese Company and Protient, Inc . The petitions were, in part, denied by the DNR. Midwest Environmental Advocates then, on behalf of WELA, filed a petition for Judicial Review of the DNR’s decision to deny the hearings and their decision and stayed both proceedings while the parties worked towards a solution that would protect the Creek while allowing both plants to continue production.

In spring 2008, WELA reached agreements with both Grande Cheese Company and Protient, Inc. that will benefit the Lower Sugar River watershed while also protecting the North Fork Juda Branch Creek. Under these agreements, Grande and Protient will provide a combined $40,000 to the Green County Land Conservation Department to fund and implement projects necessary to reduce phosphorus loadings and non-point source pollution in the Lower Sugar River Watershed . In turn, WELA dismissed both petitions for Judicial and Administrative Review.

Protient also agreed to reduce its own loading of phosphorus and iron pollution to the North Fork Juda Branch that will result from mutually agreeable process and facility changes designed to meet and exceed the terms of Protient’s water pollution permit and significantly reduce Protient’s wastewater discharges of phosphorus, total suspended solids, and biological oxygen demand from its Juda, Wisconsin facility.