Manure from Ixonia farm expansion raises concerns in Oconomowoc

Carol Spaeth-Bauer
Wisconsin State Farmer
A public hearing is set for May 31 on the renewal of the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) for Tag Lane Dairy in Ixonia.

CITY OF OCONOMOWOC - Manure spread from a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near the city's aquifer recharge area is concerning government officials. A public hearing is set for May 31 on the renewal of the farm's Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES).

Officials are concerned over Tag Lane Dairy's spreading liquid manure near the Rock River Watershed, within the Oconomowoc River Watershed and the recharge area for the city's water aquifer. Government officials adopted a resolution May 1 requesting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to consider the city's concerns over water-quality protection measures for the renewal of the permit. 

Tag Lane Dairy, N8812 River Valley Road, Ixonia, applied for the renewal of its permit two years ago, Brad Griswold told the Oconomowoc Common Council on May 1. While the permit application states the CAFO plans to increase the herd from 2,228 animals to 3,578 by 2020, Griswold said the expansion has already happened. 

Griswold explained that the DNR never moved forward with completing the renewal until now, and the numbers on the permit "are of things we already have on our dairy farm." 

Tag Lane expanded last summer, adding onto its freestall barn, parlor and manure lagoon, as well as putting up a heifer barn, Griswold explained. 

"We got permission to do these builds and everything," said Griswold. "We paid taxes on all those building permits and everything."

According to the permit, Tag Lane would annually generate about 16.6 million gallons of manure and process wastewater and more than 26,000 tons of solid manure after the expansion. Griswold noted that a manure lagoon of that size — which is already installed — is the dairy's storage capacity. 

"We never have that much on us," Griswold said. "Usually we do a big haul in the spring and a big haul in the fall."

The dairy has more than 2,600 acres, of which more than 2,300 are controlled through contracts, rented, leased or under manure agreements. More than 2,500 acres are not restricted from receiving manure. The dairy has more than 240 days of storage for liquid manure, process wastewater and rainfall and more than 50 days of storage for solid manure. 

Griswold told city officials all fields get tested for nutrient requirements and they only apply the manure that the plants will be able to uptake. 

"Everyone has different issues with us, whether it's traffic, water quality," Griswold added. "We do our very best to get along with our neighbors, to do what is best for the community and make sure that what we are doing — the decisions are fact-based and not going to hurt the environment."

Applying for a renewal of the permit, as required every five years for farms with 1,000 or more animal units, city of Oconomowoc Wastewater Operations Manager Kevin Freber pointed out that the permits only apply to water quality, not noise, odor or traffic. 

With the city spending a lot of money and time on its Oconomowoc Watershed Protection Project, city officials are asking the DNR to "protect the money and amount of time that we're spending on the Watershed Protection Program."

The watershed protection project was put in about five years ago. With the project, all wastewater treatment plants are supposed to limit the amount of phosphorus discharged into the Rock River, but there is also phosphorus coming from agriculture and stormwater utilities. 

While the city doesn't have the authority to say no to the permit renewal, it can ask that action be taken to protect water bodies, rivers and lakes in the area and the recharge area of the aquifer. 

"The increase in the manure can also affect the aquifer if the bacteria gets down in there," said Freber. "We're not making the comment that it can. We're asking to please make sure that you do the proper protection for that."

Bodies of water receiving the discharge surface water and groundwater are Sinissippi Lake, Ashippun River-Rocker River Watersheds and the Upper Rock River drainage basin.

"We're not saying don't let them have the permit, just make sure you take care of the water quality and protect the soils that we're doing right now for the OWPP," said Freber.

Griswold understands the concern over water quality. Tag Lane pays engineers and crop specialists to help with the nutrient management, and "we never overuse that," he said.

Tentatively the DNR has decided that the WPDES permit should be reissued.

A public hearing on the proposed permit action is set for 10 a.m., Thursday, May 31, in the city of Oconomowoc Council Chambers, 174 E. Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc.