FORESTVILLE - A hearing about a CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation, brought an overflowing crowd to the Forestville Town Hall on Thursday morning.
About 140 people packed the building, with the overflow audience standing outside in the morning cold, to attend a hearing about a dairy farm permit that would allow S & S Jerseyland Dairy LLC to increase its herd from 6,000 cows to more than 10,000. The farm formerly was known as S & S Ag Enterprises LLC.
Participants said expanding the permit for S & S Jerseyland Dairy endangers water quality, adds to pollution in the rivers and lake, and creates health hazards.
The Department of Natural Resources completed its review of the dairy's nutrient management plan and temporarily approved reissuing the pollutant discharge elimination permit.
The public hearing was held by the DNR to gather community feedback about the proposed permit. The comments will be used during the final evaluation of the dairy's permit application.
"I hope your water isn't poisoned; mine is," said Jeff Frisque of Forestville, whose home is surrounded by farms.
Research and studies show the correlation between farm run-off, the use of nitrogen fertilizers and the number of cows on CAFOs with pollution of groundwater, local rivers and the lake, he said.
"I take my grandkids to the beach in the summer and it's closed because of E. coli (bacteria), and that didn't used to be there years ago. Their (manure trucks) are destroying the roads, and there's a dead zone in the Bay of Green Bay," Frisque said. "But (S & S) will still get its permit."
The Ahnapee River watershed, which has been listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as impaired, is within the area affected by the dairy's operations, said Dick Swanson of Algoma, an opponent of the permit.
"What you do, S & S, affects me, my harbor, my river, my water," Swanson said. "The Ahnapee watershed is 86,700 acres, and 35,000 of that watershed is in Door County."
Door County has the same problem with CAFOs that Kewaunee County has, Swanson said. The soil is not deep enough for the amount of manure and processed wastewater generated by CAFOs, he said.
While the hearing was dominated by opposition to the permit, an employee of S & S said she is impressed with the dairy's dedication to the environment.
The farm uses all the available technology to prevent erosion, minimize water consumption and reduce the spraying of manure on fields, said Elizabeth Schwalbach, the company's compliance manager.
"The concerns (opponents) have, I have, too," said Randy Schmidt, one of the farm's owners, after the hearing. "We're a fifth-generation family farm, and I have children, grandchildren and I want them to have good water, too. We pride ourselves on being good stewards of the land.
DNR agricultural runoff specialist Brad Holtz will review the comments, and a decision will be made in April, Holtz said after the meeting.
Comments about the permit can be mailed to Brad Holtz, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Agricultural Runoff Management Specialist, 2984 Shawano Ave., Green Bay, 54313, or emailed to Holtz at Bradley.Holtz@wisconsin.gov.