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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.
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