Local officials want to reassure residents about their drinking water, even amid questions about health risks and who will pay to clean up the contamination.
The latest findings from a study of drinking water wells and their surroundings finds manure from cows that is stored or spread on farm fields poses the highest risk for certain contaminants.
Tests show waste from Kewaunee County’s 97,000 head of cattle contaminates majority of wells, especially after rainfall or snowmelt; human waste also a factor.
As communities grow and pump more groundwater, radium from deep bedrock is contaminating dozens of water systems. The city of Waukesha wants to tap into Lake Michigan to solve its radium problem.
Among those watching the case for potential statewide impact are rural residents, groundwater advocates and farmers — including Kinnard Farms co-owner Lee Kinnard, whose permit is at issue.
“It doesn’t affect Kinnard Farms. This affects the dairy industry,” Kinnard said. “This is much bigger.”
In his ruling, Boldt blamed widespread well pollution in the area on what he called a “massive regulatory failure.” Now the farm is challenging his order that its permit include groundwater monitoring and a cap on the number of cows.
An administrative law judge says “massive regulatory failure” led to groundwater contamination in a dairy farming region and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources must use its powers to prevent further pollution.
The ordinance is intended to keep waste — including manure, plus industrial and human waste — from contaminating groundwater in particularly vulnerable areas.
The growth in large dairies, and concerns about manure disposal from operations of all sizes, have fueled efforts to more tightly regulate their operations or siting. Here’s a partial roundup.
Two weeks ago, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt approved the state Department of Natural Resources’ issuance of permits for a large and controversial dairy farm in Central Wisconsin. But he also reduced the amount of water the farm could pump from proposed high-capacity wells and required the DNR to consider the impact of the withdrawals in conjunction with other, nearby wells — a concept known as cumulative impacts.
Two new studies of private well water in Kewaunee County have linked contamination to fertilizer, livestock manure and human waste. “In these shallow bedrock areas, what you put on the surface, you will end up drinking eventually,” county conservationist Andy Wallander said.
A four-day hearing on challenges to the expansion of a Kewaunee County mega-dairy illustrated deep divisions, ranging from neighbors who shared fears of polluted wells and illness to fertilizer and feed dealers who showed up to express their support of big farms.