MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Environmental regulators are set to allow a factory dairy farm accused of contaminating Kewaunee County drinking water to expand, angering conservationists.
Wisconsin’s state Department of Natural Resources has drafted new permit conditions allowing Kinnard Farms to nearly double its 8,000-head herd.
The permit would give the farm until March to come up with a plan for monitoring groundwater on the more than 16,000 acres where it spreads manure.
Chris Clayton, chief of the DNR’s agricultural runoff section, said the farm would have to show it has enough capacity to store and safely spread any additional manure before it could expand.
Shallow and fractured bedrock makes the land around the farm particularly vulnerable to groundwater contamination, according to the DNR. Water from the farm already exceeds state standards for nitrates and bacteria. A judge in 2014 heard testimony that up to half the wells in the town of Lincoln were contaminated.
The state Supreme Court in July affirmed the DNR’s authority to cap the number of animals on a farm and require groundwater monitoring as permit conditions.
But Tony Wilin Gibart, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, criticized the DNR for not using that authority to bring cleaner drinking water to Kewaunee County.
“The proposed limit in no way responds to the extent of contamination around Kinnard Farms,” Gibart said. “Or that the landscape in Kewaunee County cannot safely absorb additional manure spreading.”
Evan Feinauer, a staff attorney for environmental group Clean Wisconsin, which argued the case before the Supreme Court, said the DNR’s mandate for groundwater monitoring is “a huge deal” and the group always knew that the DNR would have to consider each farm’s circumstances to decide permit conditions.
Kinnard Farms didn’t respond to the State Journal’s requests for comment.