Wisconsin Groups Demand Investigation of Drinking Water Contamination from Factory Dairy

Environmentalists provide evidence to federal and state authorities that widespread water contamination may be linked to Kinnard Farms in Kewaunee County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 8, 2015 // Citizen organizations and environmentalists today urged federal and state authorities to investigate and take all necessary enforcement actions against a massive dairy factory farm in northeast Wisconsin that may be contaminating local residential wells and polluting a stream that feeds Lake Michigan.

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Kewaunee Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship (Kewaunee CARES), and Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin sent a letter today to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The letter contained evidence that Kinnard Farms Inc.’s practice of spreading millions of gallons of liquid manure on local fields every year is contributing to bacteria and nitrate pollution in ground water, drinking water wells, and Casco Creek, which drains into Lake Michigan.  The groups are urging officials to investigate further and require Kinnard to cease and clean up any unlawful pollution.

“Town of Lincoln residents deserve to have the long-standing pollution in their community addressed, and enforcement action taken against one of the known contributors to the widespread contamination taking place in this karst region in Kewaunee County.  This contamination has a direct impact upon citizen’s accessibility to clean drinking water, and is accompanied by the threats to human health and severe quality of life issues.  Rural residents live daily with the threats of contaminated water in their homes, the financial stresses of buying bottled water, and the continued costs of well testing, which is a financial burden to many, while state and federal regulatory agencies do not aid in assistance,” said Lynn Utesch, family farmer and member of Kewaunee CARES.

Dean Hoegger of Clean Water Action Council stated, “With over a third of Kewaunee County wells tested showing contamination from bacteria or nitrates, or both, it is with utmost urgency that the Wisconsin DNR and the EPA must take action to protect the waters of Kewaunee County.  All of the county’s citizens have rights to these waters as an unpolluted natural resource.”

“Spreading massive quantities of liquid manure on fields vulnerable to groundwater contamination threatens public health and the environment, and widespread drinking water contamination near Kinnard is a major concern,” said Tarah Heinzen, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.  “EPA and Wisconsin should act immediately to protect the drinking water of local residents and water quality of Lake Michigan.”

Kinnard Farms is an industrial-scale dairy operation in the Town of Lincoln with plans to expand further.  Today, the business houses 5,822 animal units and generates about 35 million gallons of manure a year, which it spreads on 5,000 acres of nearby farmland.  Kinnard has a permit that will allow it to expand to 8,710 animal units by late 2017, after which it will generate about 70 million gallons of manure a year.

“Allowing Kinnard Farms to increase its herd size by 50 percent would be extremely detrimental in light of the problems with providing safe disposal of the millions of gallons of waste from the current herd,” added Hoegger.

Kewaunee County has 15 large factory farms (also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs) and is highly susceptible to groundwater contamination because the local bedrock is porous, with cavities and fissures that allow rapid movement of pollutants from soil to groundwater.  Nonetheless, these facilities’ permits prohibit fecal contamination of residential wells.

A 2014 survey of 10 Kewaunee County wells found that 70 percent of the wells were positive for bacterial contamination, and 30 percent had contaminants specific to cattle.   Although nutrient pollution and contaminated wells are county-wide problems, well tests show significant pollution in the area around Kinnard and its spreading fields.  In fact, in October 2014, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Boldt declared that the extraordinarily high incidence of contaminated drinking water wells in the area surrounding Kinnard and its waste application fields is attributable to a “massive regulatory failure.”  

The three groups are asking EPA and Wisconsin officials to investigate what they believe are violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act.

To read a copy of the letter to EPA and Wisconsin officials that details the evidence, CLICK HERE

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 12-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that is dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health across the U.S.

Kewanee CARES (Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship)  is a nonprofit organization that advocates for stewardship of the land, air and water to provide a thriving environment, economy and community in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin.

The Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin is a non-profit corporation organized to promote a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment in northeast Wisconsin, to educate and inform  members and the public on environmental issues, and to take action on  behalf of members and the public to protect the environment and human health.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Tom Pelton, Director of Communications, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org

Lynn Utesch, Kewanee Citizens Advocating for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (Kewanee CARES) (920) 388-0868

Dean Hoegger, Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin (920)421-8885