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Five CAFOs get one hearing leaving Kewaunee residents concerned about water quality

Dec 08, 2017

Hearing draws citizens’ water quality concerns

Kewaunee County residents expressed anger and frustration at a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hearing on November 28, 2017. It can be challenging for people to participate in the process for public input for an approval of one industrial livestock facility’s water pollution permit. Absorbing and responding to information about five facilities’ permits at one time made meaningful public participation even more difficult.

And yet, local residents turned out at the hearing and had a lot to say. For years, the drinking water crisis in northeast Wisconsin has turned local residents into champions of defending water quality. They have litigated, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency, participated in the state’s solution-seeking workgroups, and attended countless hours of hearings. They have one clear message: Kewaunee County is full and their land cannot accept more livestock waste.

When the DNR announced it would hold one hearing on five permits for CAFO expansions or approvals, it was another pivotal moment. Residents already struggle to keep up with the never-ending encroachment of an industry that is not complying with the law and is not being held accountable for its contributions to pathogens in private drinking water wells or algae blooms in our lakes. People told the DNR to live up to the agency’s mission to put the health of people and our environment first.

For more on what happened at the hearing, the Green Bay Press Gazette has a story with video. The hearing was also covered by the Door County Pulse, the Kewaunee County Comet news blog and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Midwest Environmental Advocates comments on common problems in these CAFO permits

Midwest Environmental Advocates testified at the hearing and also submitted comments to the DNR on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Comments include information about how the DNR’s policy on calf hutch area runoff and the use of vegetated treatment areas to treat feed storage runoff fails to ensure compliance with the “zero-discharge” permit standard. This issue is related to MEA’s representation of several clean water groups in a legal challenge to a settlement betwen DBA and DNR. Site inspection reports at several of the CAFOs whose permit applications were heard on November 28 show that calf hutches and VTAs don’t meet permit conditions and aren’t designed to comply with state and federal law.

Comments also ask the DNR to require groundwater monitoring for CAFOs that have a history of compliance problems because this region is so vulnerable to groundwater pollution.

One of the most glaring problems MEA’s comments point out is how the draft permit for Kinnard Farms, Inc., if approved, would violate a circuit court order requiring an animal unit limit and off-site groundwater monitoring. The DNR considers this reissued permit a “clean slate,” but MEA pointed out that the law doesn’t allow permit holders and DNR to ignore a court order by an administrative law judge in 2014, which was affirmed by a circuit court judge in 2016. Though the case is on appeal, the orders still stand and the DNR cannot work around judicial decisions and allow violations of the rule of law.

Download MEA’s comments to the DNR.

For more information about the five CAFO permits’ November 28 hearing, including MEA’s testimony, details about why these pollution permits could threaten water resources, and more documents related to the permit applications, visit our action alert.  

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