Pagel defends spray irrigation plan
John Pagel says he was surprised by the intensity of the comments at last week’s public hearing regarding reissuance of his farm’s Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The owner of Pagel’s Ponderosa returned from a long-planned business trip to New Zealand and said he was caught off guard by the reported size of the crowd and some of what he called untrue statements by some of the speakers quoted in the Star-News’ report about the hearing.
All of the remarks at the Department of Natural Resources hearing were critical of the permit, especially with regard to a proposal to conduct the first-ever spray irrigation of liquid manure in Kewaunee County. The DNR did not mention that aspect of the permit application in the public notice of the hearing or a fact sheet distributed that day.
Pagel said he believed the documentation filed with the permit was enough to support the farm’s plans and that the DNR told him it was not necessary to make a presentation at the hearing. Several of Pagel’s family members and employees attended the hearing but did not make public comments.
“In hindsight I wish we would have presented,” he said during a follow-up interview Wednesday.
Pagel said his spray irrigation system would use liquid manure that is run through two separate cleaning systems. First, the manure would be converted by the methane digester that produces the electricity to power the farm (“and enough power for Kewaunee and Casco, too”). A chemical analysis of the digested manure showed no presence of the common pathogens listeria, salmonella or E. coli, he said.
The remaining liquid would then be processed through a nutrient recovery system, with the final product containing some potassium but none of the nitrogen or phosphorus that pose threats to public health and the environment.
He displayed two jars of liquid manure, one from the digester and a lighter-colored sample that had been through the nutrient recovery system and showed fewer suspended solids.
“That’s what I’d like to run through the pivot so we have less trucks traveling over the roads,” Pagel said. “I could have brought these jars to the hearing if I’d known it would come up.”
The farm purchased the pivot-spray equipment more than two years ago but Pagel said he delayed applying to use it because Kewaunee County Board Chairman Ron Heuer had just appointed him as chairman of the county Land and Water Conservation Committee.
“I knew what that would look like,” Pagel said.
He acknowledged concerns about the perceived conflict of interest but said Heuer persuaded him that the best person to lead the committee that enforces agricultural regulations would be a farmer.
“Who better to get farmers to follow environmental regulations than someone who understands what they need to do to voluntarily do the right things to clean up the water?” Pagel said.
Comments like those made at the hearing are “upsetting,” he said, because he and his family want to serve the community and protect the water.
“We’re not perfect, but we try hard to do the best job we can,” Pagel said.
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This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Pagel defends spray irrigation plan