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article imageOp-Ed: Wisconsin dairy farm denies accusations of well water pollution

By Karen Graham     Apr 9, 2015 in Environment
The owners of an industrial-sized dairy farm in Lincoln, Wisconsin are vehemently denying their operation is polluting drinking water wells amid allegations from several environmental groups.
The owners of Kinnard Farms Inc. in northeast Wisconsin said in a statement Wednesday they were surprised by the allegations. They asserted the Kewaunee County dairy follows strict local, state, and federal water quality regulations. "We are reviewing the documents and will respond accordingly," the owners said.
The trouble started with a request to expand
All this attention focused on Kinnard Farms came about when the operation decided in 2012 on a 55 percent expansion, going from 4,000 cows to about 6,200 cows. An operation this size is known as a ‚Äúconcentrated animal feeding operations‚ÄĚ (CAFO), and need industrial-like pollution discharge permits from the state. When approved, the dairy would be the fifth-largest in Wisconsin and produce 70 million gallons of liquid manure.
Spraying liquid cow manure.
Spraying liquid cow manure.
At the center of the allegations is the pollution allegedly caused by the spreading of millions of gallons of liquid manure from the dairy operation. Based on research compiled by the environmental groups behind the allegations, at least half of the private wells in the town of Lincoln are contaminated.
The three environmental groups include the Clean Water Action Council, the Kewaunee Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship and the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project.
This is a serious charge, and the groups have called upon the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the 4,000-cow industrial dairy farm. Kinnard Farms generates over 35 million gallons of liquid manure annually, according to the farm's 2013 annual report. The liquid manure is spread over a 5,000 acre tract of farmland. If the permit goes through, they will be spreading 70 million gallons of liquid manure.
A dairy cow produces 53 pounds of milk every day  and 120 pounds of manure.
A dairy cow produces 53 pounds of milk every day, and 120 pounds of manure.
Contamination of wells in Lincoln
If you are thinking it's only environmental groups challenging the expansion, you're wrong. Homeowners in and around Lincoln are up in arms because of polluted wells, the stink from aerosol-spreading of manure and possible contamination of groundwater.
In 2014, a pilot project conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey. tested 10 wells in Kewaunee County and found seven of the wells were contaminated with E. coli, a Gram-negative bacterium.
Three more wells were contaminated with cow manure. It should be noted that cow manure has over 160 different known pathogens, viruses, and bacteria and includes barn cleaners and their chemical make-up, antibiotics, hormones and may contain municipal and/or industrial wastes, according to the Kewaunee Cares.
The consequences of our actions will come back and bite us
There is a good reason behind the concerns over drinking water contamination. Northeastern Wisconsin soil is not clay-based, but karst, a porous bedrock. This makes the region susceptible to groundwater contamination. An even bigger concern is the future impact to our environment and the Earth's ecosystems resulting from our engaging in industrial-sized agricultural methods with little regard for future consequences.
Kinnard Farms is not the real problem here. It is the total disregard for the planet being shown by government officials at all levels, who knowingly allow questionable agricultural practices to go on. Think about the problem this way: We allow a huge dairy farm to expand 55 percent while disregarding the fact that many households are drinking and bathing in contaminated water. The contaminated water gives rise to illness, putting added stress on our healthcare system.
By spraying liquid cow manure, the farm is dispersing droplets of particulate matter contaminated with bacteria, chemical, hormones and antibiotics given to the cows into the air. Grape growers in Wisconsin are already seeing a loss of their grape crops from pesticides in the cow manure droplets, and the list goes on. Who is to blame? Maybe it might be all of us.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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