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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Home » Issues & Actions » Actions » The Treml Family v. Stahl Farms

The Treml Family v. Stahl Farms

— The Treml family of Kewaunee County was an ordinary Wisconsin family with three healthy, happy daughters. In 2004, they faced a nightmare that no family should ever face - a life threatenting illness bourne in through their water.

Case Summary

The Treml family of Kewaunee County was an ordinary Wisconsin family with three healthy, happy daughters. In 2004, they faced  a nightmare that no family should ever face - a life threatenting illness bourne in through their water.

The Tremls lived across the street from a field where Stahl Farms, a 900 cow concentrated animal feeding operation, spread animal waste. The Tremls’ well became severely contaminated in early March of 2004 just a few days after Stahl Farms had spread tens of thousands of gallons of animal waste on the field. Every member of the Treml family, including their seven month-old daughter, became seriously ill from exposure to the contaminated water.

In April 2004, Midwest Environmental Advocates and our co-counsel filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Stahl Farms for discharging animal waste and other pollutants to tributaries of nearby School Creek and groundwaters. In June of that same year, Midwest Environmental Advocates and co-counsel filed a complaint in federal court against Stahl Farms on behalf of the Treml family.

Late in 2004, the Wisconsin Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Stahl Farms in Kewaunee County Circuit Court for violating the terms of its water pollution discharge permit and discharging manure into School Creek.  With Midwest Environmental Advocates' help, the Tremls moved to intervene in the state’s lawsuit because the state’s case would affect their ability to prosecute’s Stahl’s violations in federal court, and the Tremls wanted to make sure that Stahl Farms permanently stopped polluting their drinking water and School Creek.  In early 2005, the Circuit Court for Kewaunee County ruled that the Tremls were entitled to intervene in the State’s civil lawsuit against Stahl Farms.  In its ruling, the Court likened the Treml’s case to a “victim’s rights” issue in a criminal case, where the victim has the right to participate in the prosecution of the law.

In January 2006, the U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin approved a settlement between the Tremls and Stahl Farms.  The settlement required Stahl’s insurance provider to pay the Tremls for damages.  In addition, a separate settlement between the Tremls, the State of Wisconsin, and Stahl required Stahl to refrain from spreading any manure from December 1 to April 1 on the field directly to the south of the Tremls’ home, the source of their well contamination; immediately comply with other manure spreading restrictions on frozen and snow-covered ground proposed in DNR regulations; pay up to $100,000 in forfeitures to the State of Wisconsin; create larger manure storage structures to avoid spreading on frozen and snow-covered ground; and install a runoff containment system for its feed storage areas; Install runoff controls for other areas of the operation.

Midwest Environmental Advocates is extremely proud to have worked with the Treml family on this exceptionally important issue. The Tremls fought a long, tough battle to stand up for their rights. It takes