Residents criticize Kewaunee board as manure spill reported
At a Land and Water Conservation Committee Tuesday morning, residents expressed their anger over new reports last week that 11 county wells were contaminated with salmonella and rotavirus, and included at least one well that was within a half-mile of two schools.
During the morning, several members of the Land and Water Conservation Department across the hall from the meeting were called out to a manure spill at El-Na Farms, which had recently hosted a Peninsula Pride Farms seminar on improving conservation practices for farmers. Members of the committee were not made aware of the spill during the meeting.
“The County Board has totally failed us,” Lynda Cochart, town of Lincoln resident whose well has been contaminated for several years, told the committee.
Luxemburg-Casco Middle School and Holy Trinity School, both in Casco, as well as several Casco businesses, received letters from the county health department last week informing them that their wells should be tested because one of the wells with salmonella and rotavirus was within a half-mile of their schools, according to Davina Bonness, county conservationist.
“The first thing every teacher told kids was not to go to the fountain,” said Cochart, whose granddaughter attends Holy Trinity. She also reported that a 90-year-old woman near her home was afraid to let people know that her well was contaminated and that neighbors were helping to cart water to the woman’s home.
Algoma resident Mary Goodner told the committee that the creeks and rivers in the county continued to look like “chocolate milk.”
“We are under a spotlight here,” said Goodner. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done.”
Chris Seidl, owner of the Luxemburg Pharmacy, told the committee that the county continued to have too many cows producing more waste than its resources can handle.
“I see the large number of people whose health has been directly affected by agricultural practices in this county,” she said. “The agriculture division of our county doesn’t look for what the cause is or look for a cure, they keep trying to apply a band-aid.”
Bonness said that with an additional staff person funded in the 2016 county budget, her department is now better equipped to monitor manure spreading.
She said that both her office and the DNR have been doing unannounced manure audits and refusing to approve Nutrient Management Plans if soil types are not identified.
There were nine violations of the groundwater protection ordinance this winter and spring, she said. This included two farms – Srnka Farms and Dale DeGraves – who were each fined $250 for second violations of the ordinance, according to Bonness.
“Next year, there will be no first warnings,” Bonness said.
She noted that DNR testing of 30 wells was not complete, including the 11 found contaminated last week. She said that the DNR was still testing these wells for other viruses. She said that there was evidence that the 11 wells were contaminated with bovine virus and that tests were being done to confirm this.
She said that in addition to the voluntary county well testing planned for this June, the DNR would be doing a second round of testing of the wells it tested last November. These tests will be taken in July, she said.
“I know people are frustrated, but let’s let the researchers get the answers,” said Bonness.
Joe Johnson said that recent presentations on how to improve soil health had been well-received by farmers.
Supervisor Lee Luft said that in response to citizens concerns, he had read the a 2011-2012 DNR study demonstrating water quality degradation in parts of the East Twin River and he was concerned that though the river had been tested and found to be impaired by phosphorus, the river had not been tested for chloride coming from the Agropur cheese plant. He noted that all chloride emissions into an unnamed stream that ran into the river were currently tested and monitored by Agropur..
“We need to find out what is going on in that waterway,” Luft said. He said that he would be proposing a resolution at the next committee meeting to ask the DNR to do further studies of the East Twin River.
“I would like to see us include Agropur in this discussion,” said Luft. Pagel agreed that the committee needed to bring Agropur to the table.
“There are lots of good things going on,” Pagel said.
Following the meeting, Bonness confirmed that a manure spill had been reported off County P in the town of Lincoln. On April 22,, the farm hosted a seminar sponsored by Peninsula Pride Farms, a not-for-profit group, dedicated to improving environmental stewardship among the agricultural community.
Bonness said that approximately 10,000 gallons of liquid manure had spilled and some of the manure had run into a nearby wetland.
She said that the DNR was called in to monitor the clean up and determine if fines were warranted.
The spill occurred when a manure pumping line rolled down from a hill into a ditch, where it twisted and burst, according to Nathen Nysse, a consultant for the farm.
“We will never prevent all spills from happening,” said Pagel after learning of the spill Tuesday afternoon. “You learn from experience … I know that farm and that family and they have all the intention to do the right thing.”
He said he was not aware of what efforts would be needed to clean up the contaminated wetland
Bonness said that it was the third manure spill this year..
Jim Dick, the DNr’s communications director, said the manure spreader and the farm followed protocol, reported the spill immediately and began cleanup operations quickly. DNR professional staff was on scene, Dick said.
“More than half of the 10,000 gallon spill has been recovered,” he said. “The affected wetland is being flushed to dilute the impact.”
An experienced environmental consulting firm has been brought in to assist with the cleanup and any necessary follow-up, he said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Residents criticize Kewaunee board as manure spill reported