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Board denies new tank
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MONROE - Applause from nearly all of the 91 attendees at a public hearing on Wednesday night rang throughout the Green County courthouse board room as a request for a 1.8-million-gallon tank meant for the storage of liquid waste to be built was unanimously struck down.

The Green County Board of Adjustment members made the decision after hearing almost two hours of testimony from 14 speakers about the effect of the three current tanks of food waste located at W7512 County C in the Town of Adams. Members asked that the company examine how to make the area less noxious to neighbors and re-apply in a year, when they are allowed to file a new request.

The request was for an amendment to the land's conditional use permit, originally put in place in 2013. It called for the construction of the largest tank yet on the farmland of Gordyle Valley LLC. It would replace a 1-million-gallon tank owned by Bytec Resource Management Inc, which the company intended to tear down due to rust. The plans included building the new, larger tank for operation by Sept. 1 and razing the smaller tank in the spring of next year.

Bytec Resource Management is based in Monroe. Steve Byrne, company owner and president noted during the hearing that the company was founded by himself and his wife in 1983. Byrne contended that the business has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to "address concerns in the industry." The tanks, which Byrne said hold 100 percent food waste with over 90 percent of the material whey and other cheese factory waste, are part of 4.4 million gallons in facilities throughout Green County, according to Byrne.

"We provide a valuable service for farmers and dairy industry businesses," Byrne said. "Operations are scrutinized and monitored heavily. This business affects over 600 jobs in Green County and more than 500 in Lafayette County."

Two individuals spoke in favor of the company. Klondike Cheese Company owner Ron Buholzer spoke on behalf of Bytec Inc., indicating the need for the company's specialty of waste management and recycling in order to keep the cheesemaking industry vibrant.

"We have to use Bytec," Buholzer said. "We deal with odor ourselves, and odor is a problem. Groundwater issues ... what's being brought up is false. The biggest concern you could ever have is a breach of the vessel itself. ... It's a highly regulated industry."

Upon questioning from Board Chair Ted Fahey about what the alternatives were for other wet industries in the area if Bytec were not an option, Buholzer said, "we'd pretty well be screwed."

However, an overwhelming number of attendees brought up grievances from nearly a decade ago for the board to examine. Odor, which people claimed has brought down the quality of life in their community and the worth of their homes and land, was a sticking point for every speaker.

Peter Kind of Knoke and Ingebritsen Law Office in Monroe, speaking on behalf of the complaining residents, said the burden of proof falls to the applicants, including adequate answers to the questions posed. He said the purpose of zoning was to promote the public health, protect property values, oversee planning of roadways and prevent water pollution.

"This is an issue that affects our most valuable resources: clean water, clean air and clean land," Kind said. "The issues here are not just the odor, but the risk of a rupture ... and a risk of what is actually in the tanks."

He added that Richard Gordee, operator of the farmland on which the tanks are located, had said during an Adams Township meeting on July 21 that the corporation had been storing biowaste on the property in a tank separate from the terms of the conditional use permit since 2013. Kind said there are questions regarding a number of fines by the company, claims of falsified records and illegally discharging waste. Because the company self-regulates and reports to the DNR independently, it is a question of trust.

Bytec has had violations in the past. In a story reported by The Monroe Times on Sept. 25, 2010, Bytec was cited for spreading liquid waste on fields without permits from the DNR in two separate incidents, one in 2003 and the other in 2004. Bytec was forced to pay $10,000 in three equal installments, the first within 60 days of the judgment. Under an agreement, the company did not have to pay the final installment if it avoided violating its land-spreading permit within two years. At the time, Byrne said the violation was a result of a miscommunication between the company and the DNR. Byrne claimed Bytec had submitted the permit requests to the state before the cheesemaking liquid waste was spread onto the fields, but that the DNR had said the permits were not approved at the time the company spread the waste. Since then, Bytec's lawyer Bob Duxstad said there had been no filings against the company and that the employee responsible was no longer working there. However, Kind contended that a number of violations had been finalized in private settlements between the company and individuals.

Jim Weber, the owner of a 700-acre farm along Locust Road which is near the waste tanks, said he was glad to see the board make their final decision.

"I'm just thrilled to death," Weber said. "I don't think we've totally reached our goal yet because the smell hasn't been dealt with for those families though."

Byrne was understanding of the board decision as he left the board room.

"We're a good neighbor," Byrne said. "We respect the decision of the board. We'll take the recommendations into consideration."

Bytec can appeal, and would have 60 days to do so and go before the county court system in the hopes of overturning the board's decision.