Manure leaks into Pine Creek in Manitowoc County

Alisa M. Schafer
A truck pumps manure out of Pine Creek after runoff from a nearby dairy farm reached the Manitowoc County tributary Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in Newton, Wis. Josh Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

NEWTON - Manure runoff from Hockhammer Dairy Farm is affecting the water quality of Pine Creek, according to Andrew Savagian from the communications office of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Savagian said it is not known if the spill has contaminated any drinking water or created any health issues, but the DNR is continuing to investigate the incident.

A spokesman from Hockhammer Dairy Farm said they will not release any statements at this time.

A pump was in place at Pine Creek near Gass Lake Road in Newton the morning of Aug. 9 to clean the spill.

Pine Creek runs through Manitowoc County directly to Lake Michigan. According to a press release from the Wisconsin DNR, the amount of runoff entering the stream is unknown and the impact to the surrounding area downriver is still being investigated.

The press release states: “The dairy (farm) is working with DNR staff to address the issue and the source from the manure pit has been controlled.”

The site of the cleanup on Gass Lake Road is near where the new Wisconsin Agricultural Education Center is being built. Julie Maurer, WAEC board of directors president, said the dairy farm responsible for the spill had a cleanup plan in place and is working through that plan.

Manure runoff from a nearby dairy farm mixes with Pine Creek Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in Newton, Wis. Josh Clark/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

“These things are accidents, we need to be prepared for when these accidents do happen,” Maurer said.

According to Rebecca Abler, an associate professor of biological sciences at University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, evidence points to the spill as an isolated event and one that was caught quickly.

Abler oversees a group of six interns who are part of a yearly stream monitoring program. The interns check levels of E. coli, ammonia and phosphates in the water weekly at two different points at Pine Creek, as well as other streams in Manitowoc County.

Abler said bacteria levels at Pine Creek were normal when they were checked near Gass Lake Road Saturday, after a rain event, but spiked Monday, Aug. 7. She also noted that bacteria levels at a checkpoint further downstream, near county highways U and LS, did not vary much, leading her to believe the contamination from the spill did not have a chance to spread very far downriver.

“From our standpoint, this is why we are doing this monitoring, it is helping the community and helping these farmers,” Abler said. “From talking with farms, we know they don’t want to be polluters, so we see this as a kind of partnership to keep our natural resources safe.”

The press release from the DNR said agriculture specialists are continuing to monitor water quality in Pine Creek.