3 dairy farms named in environmental protection enforcement action

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

MADISON – Three dairy farms and one agribusiness were named in the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) enforcement results for the first quarter of 2018.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says first quarter Environmental Protection Unit work includes enforcement action on three dairy farms.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that the EPU obtained judgments in 12 state enforcement cases, totaling $226,770 in forfeitures and related surcharges, plus an additional $774,000 in projects designed to further protect public health and the environment.

“The Department of Justice continues our important work enforcing the state’s environmental laws and helping to protect and restore our state’s natural resources,” Schimel said. “This quarter, the state and its citizens will realize more than $1 million in forfeitures, fines, and environmental projects because of the hard work of the public servants in EPU and at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.”

Of the 12 state enforcement actions, six involved civil prosecutions for unpermitted discharges or other threats to surface water and wetlands, two addressed air pollution control violations, two involved operating solid waste facilities without a permit, and two targeted the removal of abandoned underground storage tanks containing residual petroleum products.

According to first quarter logs, Kinnamon Ridge Dairy of Reedsburg worked with the EPU to address prior compliance concerns while taking additional steps to better protect the environment going forward, including investing $724,000 in new feed storage facility and storm water management improvements to prevent leachate from leaving the property.

The Reedsburg dairy was also required to obtain a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and pay $25,000 in forfeitures and surcharges after DNR officials witnessed animal waste spilling over out of a manure storage lagoon, contaminating a tributary of the Little Baraboo River. The DNR said a small number of fish died afterward.

"Beyond adding additional environmental protections at the farm, these measures will help ensure greater compliance in the future," Schimel said in the release.

Other dairy farms listed for enforcement action included Thistle Dairy LLC of VanDyne, $30,000 in total payments and Pine Breeze Dairy LLC, of Pine River, $14,827 in total payments.

According to judgement notes, Thistle Dairy in southern Winnebago County, will be required to implement a number of new enhanced compliance projects including the use of new manure requirements and cropping, new storage construction and an updated nutrient management plan.

The forfeiture was ordered after a contractor for the dairy spread manure in 2016 that drained onto a neighbor's property following a rain storm, killing fish in a pond.

This was the second case with Thistle Dairy in recent years that the Department of Natural Resources had found environmental violations and referred findings to the Justice Department.   

The farm was ordered to pay $80,000 in 2013 under then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen for failing to properly manage manure.

A waste treatment plant, Green Whey Energies Inc., of Turtle Lake was assessed $13,518.71 in forfeitures and a $6,481.29 surcharge. The company services the dairy and food industry of Wisconsin.

In another case, EPU secured a default judgment for more than $60,000 in forfeitures and fees as well as an order requiring the defendant to permanently close abandoned underground storage tanks. 

Schimel says this quarter’s results follows 2017’s record breaking collection in which DOJ’s EPU recovered $1,450,026 in forfeitures and related surcharges and secured an additional $18,588,500 for environmental projects, for a total judgment value of $20,038,526. The three joint federal Superfund cases settled in 2017 secured $242,332,000 in future restoration commitments for the state’s natural resources.

Lee Bergquist contributed to this report.