Fond du Lac County manure runoff reaches Sheboygan River

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
More than 11 miles of streams in the Malone and Mt. Calvary areas were affected and fish killed when rain washed manure spread on fields into nearby waterways.

FOND DU LAC COUNTY - More than 11 miles of streams in the Malone and Mt. Calvary areas were affected and fish killed when heavy rains washed manure spread on fields into nearby waterways. 

The Redtail Ridge Dairy, a DNR-permitted CAFO facility, had applied manure to several fields starting Friday, Aug. 17, and continuing through Monday, Aug. 20. The area received heavy rain late Monday and manure ran off at least two fields, reaching nearby waterways. Dead fish were found in an unnamed stream at several road crossings, including Ledge Road, Valley Road and County W.

The manure plume reached the canoe launch at County CCC and the Sheboygan River where county health officials said signs will be posted warning recreationists to avoid contact with the water because of concerns about e-coli bacterial contamination.

Ben Uvaas, a DNR wastewater specialist who has been on the scene since Wednesday afternoon when manure was reported in an unnamed creek, said Redtail Ridge Dairy has initiated pumping activity in affected surface waters. However, the runoff was largely uncontained as of late Thursday morning, and the contamination is expected to spread downstream.

Dead fish, mainly minnow species, were seen in the Sheboygan River near County Road CCC and two smaller tributaries.

During Uvaas' inspection, a second runoff event was identified that resulted in surface water contamination and a fish kill. Redtail Dairy has confirmed the farm spread manure to fields near County Road WH and that manure had run off these fields into surface waters, the DNR said. The dairy has contracted with a local septic pumper to collect manure laden water.

Redtail Ridge Dairy was notified by the DNR on Wednesday, Aug. 22 that a runoff event had occurred "following a nutrient application to our no-till wheat fields in the towns of Taycheedah and Marshfield on Monday, Aug. 22," the dairy said in a statement provided to the Wisconsin State Farmer. 

"Unfortunately, the application was followed by heavy rains overnight causing the runoff.  We are working closely with the DNR on clean-up to mitigate any further impact, including use of our custom manure hauler and several other vacuum trucks and equipment that are onsite," the statement said. "As a fourth generation family farm, this has been an extremely difficult situation. We are committed to our community and protecting our natural resources and feel terribly that this has happened. We will continue working with the DNR to minimize any impact to the environment."

Clean-up activities will likely continue for days, according to the DNR.

The DNR reviewed local well drilling records, which indicate deep clay soils in the area, which help protect groundwater quality. The DNR currently does not anticipate wells to be impacted.