Task force moves forward on groundwater issues
Kewaunee County residents should have more information this month on the extent of well contamination in the county from the results of a November well testing of 420 private wells, Lee Luft, chairman of the Groundwater Task Force said at the committee’s meeting Wednesday.
The results of the first well tests may be reported at the Land and Water Committee meeting on Dec. 8, he said. A second test of the same wells will be conducted in the spring.
Luft also reported that a Department of Natural Resources work group on Best Management Practices for agriculture had been given a presentation by Heidi Schmidt of the DNR on “other” waste spreading in the county. She reported that waste from human septage and industrial waste from meat processing plants, whey, and other industrial wastes accounted for approximately 10 percent of the wastes spread on county fields.
A Compliance Workgroup organized by the DNR was reviewing a list of recommendations submitted by members to enhance monitoring and compliance of regulations for manure spreading, Luft said. These recommendations included more frequent land-spreading monitoring by DNR and county agents, improving land-spreading maps, enhancing education and possible certification for land-spreading employees, increasing CAFO permit fees to help pay for needed oversight, and filling the long-vacant Kewaunee County DNR warden position.
The groundwater task force committee is also developing a website that will provide a “one-stop” source for updates on Kewaunee County’s ground and surface waters, as well as a series of informational news releases providing information on government efforts to improve ground and surface water conditions in the county.
The task force has developed a Q & A for private well owners who have bacterial or nitrate contamination in their wells, which will be published later this month, Luft said.
Task force member Nick Cochart, superintendent of Algoma Schools, said that a kiosk at the Algoma school campus to provide free water to residents with contaminated wells should be operational by Dec. 15. He said that the water will be available in one- and three-gallon reusable jugs.
In addition, the task force reviewed recent long-term efforts to address the water contamination issues in the county.
County chairman Ron Heuer reported that the county had received a $50,000 grant from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to study establishing “hubs” for manure treatment in the county. Heuer said the study would involve examining the feasibility of placing manure treatment technology at six to eight sites around the county where farmers could pipe in or truck their manure. The technology would remove and clean the water from liquid manure and develop fertilizers from the solids.
Heuer said that the landfill might be one site for a manure treatment operation.
He noted that because the county’s farms produce more than 550 million gallons annually of liquid manure, the initial site would only be able to treat a small percentage of this volume.
Task force member Tom Kleiman said that the hubs could work like corn cooperatives used in other parts of the Midwest, but the products would be made from manure.
Heuer noted that one concern was that establishing privately-funded manure treatment centers in the county would take regulatory changes because of the commingling of different farms’ manures.
“The study will allow us to put together a plan,” said Heuer, adding that a subcommittee of the County Board may be formed to develop the plan. He said that the technology used could be similar to those being tested by Digested Organics in Sheboygan.
Luft noted that a meeting of all the county’s town chairmen had recently been held at Feeco International to update them on the latest developments in manure treatment and irrigation technologies.
He said that representatives from the DNR and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay reviewed the current rewards and risks of these technologies.
“I think the folks came away with an idea on how to better treat manure,” he said noting that they also understood that while the potential to treat manure existed, it was not being accomplished yet at the volume needed for Kewaunee County.
Mick Sagrillo, a resident of the town of Lincoln, noted that new legislation to address groundwater contamination in areas of Karst bedrock had been introduced in the state Legislature this week. He urged the groundwater task force to consider supporting the bill and asking for support from local state representatives.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Task force moves forward on groundwater issues