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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Kinnard Farms, Inc. Appeal Dismissed

Jun 18, 2015

In another step in Kewaunee County citizens’ legal fight for clean water, this week a Circuit Court dismissed Kinnard’s appeal without ruling on Kinnard’s request for a stay, and Kinnard must now comply with an administrative law judge’s order.

On Tuesday a judge dismissed Kinnard’s appeal of an October 29, 2014, decision by an Administrative Law Judge that ordered Kinnard Farms, Inc. to comply with federal clean water laws by monitoring groundwater for pollution linked to landspreading manure waste from the industrial dairy and to report to the DNR the number of animal units the livestock operation would have in its expanded facility.

“We know that the DNR is trying to do the right thing,” said staff attorney Sarah Williams. “Despite being inadequately resourced, the agency is working to make the company follow the court order. The DNR has sent Kinnard Farms, Inc. two requests for the information ordered by the court in order to finalize a water pollution permit that may better protect the county’s water, but the company has yet to respond. Ultimately, with Kewaunee County’s third-world level water problems recently in the news, what Wisconsin needs is a DNR with more resources to prevent pollution before it happens and adequately respond to problems.”

The dismissal of Kinnard’s appeal is a step in holding the operation accountable to the DNR and to the judge’s decision, and we expect the company to promptly and fully comply with the judge’s order. However, we also expect that Kinnard will continue to appeal this decision in another venue, further resisting DNR efforts to enforce the judge’s order and delaying imposition of a permit that would better protect the already impaired groundwater in Kewaunee County.

“We can only speculate on the attorneys’ fees the company has spent on fighting citizens in court,” said MEA executive director Kim Wright. “Kinnard could easily be spending more money on fighting to keep its water pollution permit weak than they would to take reasonable steps to monitor groundwater. The extravagance of drawn out litigation to resist meeting public health standards within the law hits people in harm’s way the hardest. Why would it be worth a very expensive legal battle to avoid the modest cost of complying with permit conditions, especially when so many families have to purchase water to stay safe?”

Citizens of Kewaunee County have been fighting for clean water for a long time. This permit challenge was first filed in October of 2012. What they’re asking for is pretty simple. Transparency and accountability from an industrial livestock operation that spreads millions of gallons of untreated manure on area land is essential for water laws to work and to protect the water families use for drinking or for swimming and fishing. Time and money spent in court would be put to better use complying with clean water laws.                                                                                                                                                   

We expect that Kinnard Farms, Inc. will ultimately comply with the law and follow the judge’s orders by monitoring groundwater and agreeing to a limit on the number of animals they have in its operation. In the long run, the industry has to lead – not by fighting clean water laws in court – but by putting their resources into real innovations in sustainable farming for Wisconsin’s clean water future.

For more information on this litigation, please visit our action page.

/ tagged: agriculture, water, rural, drinking water