Agropur reports to conservation committee on East Twin River discharge
Representatives of the Agropur cheese plant in Luxemburg Tuesday told the Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Committee and a group of angry residents that it could not reduce chloride emissions at its plant that are discharging into an unnamed tributary of the East Twin River.
“There is currently not a water treatment technology to remove chloride in a practical manner,” said Chris Simon, a technology manager for the Agropur plant.
Agropur was invited to speak to the committee after Groundwater Task Force Chairman Lee Luft and county residents expressed concern about a DNR permit granted last spring that allows increased chloride levels to flow into an unnamed tributary that meets with the East Twin River. The permit was granted to accommodate important social and economic development, according to DNR representative Nanette Jameson.
Residents who live near the river downstream from the plant say that the discharges are harming aquatic life in the East Twin River and have caused the disappearance of trout in what was a Class II trout stream that had been designated as a DNR Legacy Site.
But Simon said that Agropur’s discharge is under the 400 mg/l required by the state and that it is currently achieving 200 to 250 mg/l. He said that prior to a plant expansion in 2013-2014, the plant was discharging 1,300 pounds of chloride a day and that under the new DNR permit it was allowed to discharge up to 3,281 pounds a day of chloride into the river. He said that the plant was currently discharging 1,500 to 1,600 pounds a day.
“Because we expanded, we are discharging more,” he said.
Luft asked the Land and Water Committee to consider passing a resolution to ask the DNR to fund a new study of the water quality of the river downstream from the plant. He said that a 2011-2012 DNR study shows that the water quality of the unnamed tributary and East Twin River downstream from the plant had deteriorated significantly over the last decade.
“All I can derive from reading the permit is that essentially we have granted an increase in effluent to an already impaired waterway,” said Luft. The East Twin River was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of impaired waters in 2015.
John Pagel, Land and Water committee chair, said that he had new information from Russ Rasmussen of the DNR that showed that the number, type and quantity of aquatic life in the stream was improving.
“We need to work and come up with a plan to get the river off the impaired list,” Pagel said.
But Lee Luft noted that it was counter-intuitive to believe that water quality that was poor before the plant expansion would be improved now that more effluent was added to the waterway.
“This is not going to end well if you are poisoning our river,” said Dick Swanson, a member of the Groundwater Task Force.
But Simon told the committee that weekly tests sent to an outside lab show that with the current chloride levels, the unnamed stream and river are capable of supporting aquatic life, including water fleas, which are food for trout.
County Supervisor Mary Ellen Dobbins asked if the higher temperature of water flowing into the stream from the plant, which Simon said could reach 90 degrees, was also impacting trout and other aquatic life.
Nancy Utesch of Kewaunee Cares said that Agropur should start an initiative to clean up the river and send its chloride effluent to the Green Bay sewage treatment plant.
But Simon said that the Green Bay treatment plant would emit similar or higher levels of chloride into its waterway and that there was no cost-effective way to remove chloride from Agropur’s effluent.
Canadian dairy company Agropur invested $100 million in its Luxemburg plant in 2013-2014, adding five to 10 employees. It operates four cheese plants in Wisconsin.
In other issues, Davina Bonness, county conservationist, reported that the results of the volunteer well tests showed that of 129 well samples taken, 33 had shown the presence of coliform bacteria or nitrates. She said that this represented 25.6 percent of wells.
In addition, Don Niles of Peninsula Pride Farms made a presentation to the committee and reported that the farmer-led environmental stewardship initiative now represented 57,000 acres, 32,000 cows and 40 members in Kewaunee and Door counties. He said that the group had recently received a government grant for $20,000 towards groundwater protection.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Agropur reports to conservation committee on East Twin River discharge