The Department of Natural resources has issued a water pollution permit to Pinnacle Dairy, a Nebraska-based company that plans to open a large feedlot in Green County’s Brodhead.
That site would produce an estimated 95 million gallons of manure annually.
Neighbors — many of them farmers themselves — have expressed concern about the possibility of groundwater contamination from the proposed 5,800 hundred cow feedlot.
The Pinnacle Dairy CAFO — or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation — is already under construction, but other Green County residents are worried manure from site will contaminate their groundwater.
Tressie Kamp is an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates and says the land in this part of south central Wisconsin increases people’s groundwater contamination concerns.
“This is what we call a Karst landscape so it’s a more sensitive landscape in our state where contaminants can travel quickly from the surface to groundwater, so you hear a pretty significant concern from area residents about the potential for ground and surface water contamination,” Kamp says.
Kamp says while this initial permit’s been approved, the DNR did add additional testing requirements for Pinnacle. The company will have to show it’s not contaminating the groundwater, which isn’t a requirement in most CAFO permits.
Kamp says Pinnacle has to establish the concentration of certain contaminants, like nitrate, and submit their findings to the DNR.
“These monitoring requirement requirements are not in every CAFO permit,” Kamp says. “That’s at least a step in the right direction although it doesn’t resolve all of our concerns.”
If the data submitted to the DNR isn’t satisfactory, Kamp says they have authority to demand modifications. That could include creating a larger barrier between the manure and the water table.
Citizens are especially concerned about the relatively small amount of space between the manure and the water table, and say that could lead to large amounts of water being contaminated.
Kamp says it’s not likely for a CAFO to be stopped at this point in the process — the DNR doesn’t have a track record of denying permits at this point in the process. But she says neighbors still need to watchdog the DNR.
“That doesn’t mean there’s significant opportunity and room for citizen involvement and oversight of the type of data that’s going to get sent to DNR,” Kamp says.
Concerned neighbors are meeting with Kamp tonight to discuss next steps. They’ll be meeting at the Brodhead library until 8 pm tonight.
This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the amount of manure that the Pinnacle Dairy feedlot will produce.