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Breaking News…CAFO Sues DNR over Groundwater Pumping
March 1, 2013
In January 2013, New Chester Dairy in Grand Marsh/Adams County (just south of Coloma) received approval from the DNR to pump a staggering 145 million gallons of groundwater a year, from wells located on their current farm and new wells located 2.5 miles away. The wells are 1.8 miles from Campbell Creek, a Class 1 trout stream and Exceptional Resource Water, or possibly closer if you count wetlands.
Here is the important part - New Chester Dairy has filed a contested case hearing request with the DNR, challenging certain conditions the DNR placed on its high capacity well approval. Alarmingly, the dairy says the DNR lacks authority to require these conditions.
What are these awful conditions? One requires the dairy to install monitoring wells to track groundwater levels in areas projected to be most hard-hit by the dairy’s water use, and to collect and report water level data from these monitoring wells to the DNR. The dairy must collect and report the data for three years, and after that, it may petition the DNR to change the monitoring requirements.
Other challenged conditions are the requirement that the dairy notify future owners of the property of the conditions on the well permit, and the condition that approval to operate the wells is contingent in the dairy’s compliance with its water discharge (WPDES) permit. The WPDES permit allows the dairy, among other things, to spread manure and construct manure containment facilities at the dairy site.
In addition to filing the request for a contested case hearing, New Chester Dairy has sued the DNR in Outagamie County Circuit Court, Case No. 13-CV-205. The claims in both cases are the same.
So in effect, the DNR has put some minimal monitoring conditions on the approval of the wells. Conditions that seem very reasonable if the well was to be approved at all. And then they are sued for doing so? This is the same corporation that is proposing the Richfield CAFO and has several others around the state. It is frightening to think that the DNR cannot even place minimal conditions on the permit to protect or even monitor our water resources. If successful, this has real impact on how the DNR will be able to permit these wells for all of us.
DNR Report on Water Withdrawls