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February 13, 2016


Alternative Facts now govern CAFO permits at DNR


Coloma – The DNR today re-issued a WPDES permit for the Richfield Dairy located near Coloma, WI.  The WPDES permit (Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System) governs the storage and elimination of waste from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, housing thousands of cows.  The CAFO has not yet been built.

This permit, which was first issued in 2011 for a five year period, was hit by citizen outcry and a resulting Contested Case Hearings led by Friends of the Central Sands (FOCS). As the result of these hearings, Judge Boldt ordered a limitation on the number of animals kept in this facility based on a set limit of ground water withdrawal.  The DNR has chosen to not only ignore this order; they have basically rubber stamped the approval of this permit with fewer limits than before.  Specifically:

- The DNR has removed the animal cap from this permit, opening the door for immediate and rapid expansion as this corporation has done in other locations. 

- The DNR specifically states, “Existing environmental issues in the area are not a basis for denial of the WPDES permit,” despite conditions in the Central Sands that are highly susceptible to groundwater contamination manure production and spreading, as demonstrated by severe nitrate contamination surrounding other CAFOs in the Central Sands,

-The DNR ignored detailed, expert comments submitted by FOCS and others specific changes that were necessary to protect ground water quality from manure spreading and other activities. 

-The DNR made no apparent effort to ensure that issuing this permit would protect the public health and environment.  As the DNR itself stated, “The department does not claim that the requirements of a WPDES permit….will guarantee that water quality will not be impacted”

The DNR’s barebones approach might be pleasing to the industry, but it does nothing to assure that the public health and environment will actually be protected from groundwater contamination and other environmental concerns.  FOCS is saddened by the reissuance of this permit and the DNR’s failure to consider real-world conditions, science, and its duties to protect Wisconsin’s water and citizenry.  

To download comments to the DNR and their response click here 

To download the final WPDES Permit for the Richfield CAFO click here

Not Standing Still:  The Degradation of Wisconsin's Water

A short film by FOCS depicting the loss of water in Wisconsin's Central Sands


January 11, 2017 Contact: Mark Miller


Miller, Mason Introduce Water Sustainability Act

Madison – Today Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), along with a long list of co-authors and supporters, introduced the Water Sustainability Act.

“We have a responsibility to develop sustainable environmental policies that ensure our precious natural resources will be around for future generations. Businesses, homeowners, and municipalities all rely on groundwater resources to thrive in daily life,” said Representative Mason.

We know that our water supplies are not infinite. In some parts of the state, over use of groundwater is drying up rivers and lakes. This bill would establish a way for all users of our resources to have sustainable access to our water ensuring that our rivers and lakes are available not just for today, but for future users as well.

“In the Central Sands, we are facing a water crisis,” said Bob Clarke, President of Friends of the Central Sands. “The Water Sustainability Act offers a scientific approach to managing our resources.”

Current laws and regulations are inadequate to protect the public resource and to reduce conflict. Court decisions that direct the Department of Natural Resources to protect the waters of the state have been ignored by the Walker Administration.

“The Legislature needs to act now. The science exists for Wisconsin manage our water resources so the reasonable use doctrine is fully realized; that every person has a right to use water but not to the point where it denies others,” added Senator Miller.

Organizations that support the legislation include Friends of the Central Sands, River Alliance of Wisconsin, The Nature Conservancy, Clean Wisconsin, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club John Muir Chapter and Wisconsin Lakes.

Legislative authors include Senators Mark Miller, Chris Larson, Dave Hansen, Kathleen Vinehout, Janis Ringhand, Bob Wirch and Representatives Cory Mason, Gary Hebl, Nick Milroy, Sondy Pope, Jill Billings, Amanda Stuck, Josh Zepnick, Lisa Subeck, Evan Goyke, Chris Taylor, Tod Ohnstad, David Crowley, Dana Wachs, Dave Considine, Debra Kolste, Eric Genrich, Jonathan Brostoff, Terese Berceau, Melissa Sargent, Gordon Hintz, Christine Sinicki, Jimmy Anderson, Mark Spreitzer, and David Bowen.

For the bill click here
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Our victory in court is under attack by legislators.   Read the Judge's ruling.

Judge Rules DNR Must Consider Cumulative Impacts in Issuing High-Capacity Well Permits


Wisconsin Public Radio interview regarding our letter to Secretary Stepp

What is happening to our water?
See these short commercials produced by FOCS

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