By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
County asks for more testing from CAFO
Placeholder Image
MONROE - A section of land where Pinnacle Dairy has proposed to build its 5,800-cow dairy has tested suitable for construction, but the Green County Land and Water Conservation Committee wants to further examine soil composition on a larger scale.

Todd Jenson, Green County conservationist, informed the committee during its monthly meeting Thursday that he had requested Pinnacle Dairy conduct more tests over 20 acres. The committee recommended a written request be put forward as well.

"One hole does not sell me on it," Jenson said. "Yes, it's going to cost a lot of money, but if we build this and it fails, it's going to cost a lot more."

The 40-foot soil pit indicated that there were "extensive perch conditions" on the proposed site. A perch forms when saturated soil sits above unsaturated soil, serving as a buffer to the lower levels of ground and water below the surface.

Ronnie Williams, lead engineer for the Pinnacle Dairy project, said he and his crew are required by law to show no groundwater is present within 4 feet of the proposed structure. Williams said they did not have any findings until 9 and a half feet.

"I chose to definitively show where it was," Williams said. "I personally don't believe it's necessary, nor does anyone have the legal authority to do that. I don't think it would be a good use of resources to do any additional."

Williams added that his engineering crew had conducted a "sound investigation" and had gone "above and beyond" what is requested by both state law and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requirements.

Leah Ziemba, a lawyer representing Pinnacle Dairy who was present at the meeting, agreed previous tests done in December were more than what is requested by the DNR and the state.

"We met with the state decision-makers, have worked through the supplemental reports that were submitted ... and we believe we have met and answered all of the requirements satisfactorily," Ziemba said. "Though we understand the request that Todd made verbally, we will be providing in writing our concern about the county's authority to request that considering it's above and beyond what the animal waste storage ordinance would require."

Pinnacle Dairy is a proposed large-scale dairy facility, also referred to as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation because it has more than 1,000 animal units. The CAFO is proposed by Todd Tuls on a 130-acre site along County FF and Decatur-Sylvester Road in Sylvester Township. Tuls owns Rock Prairie Dairy in Janesville and has noted in the past that the facility has been successful. He also manages a 10,000-cow CAFO in Nebraska.

The proposed dairy plans to work with neighboring farms to spread manure from their farm over 6,000 additional acres within the area.

There are currently four CAFOs in Green County. Out of those, the largest, is currently permitted for roughly 1,800 animals.

But the addition of the new larger-scale dairy has caused concern among the surrounding townships. Local farmers banded together to push for a moratorium to temporarily halt any proposed CAFOs in the area to allow for more time to study potential risks - specifically possible harm to the groundwater.

Green County Defending Our Farmland, formed in response to Pinnacle's plans by farmers surrounding the proposed build site, brought a proposal to the Sylvester Township Board for a moratorium and a committee to be formed to investigate the possible health effects further. The ordinance to allow a moratorium on any newly proposed CAFO went into effect Sept. 24. The moratorium will end Jan. 18. The committee has until then to present its findings to the township board.

The conservation committee decided to include a discussion of a moratorium at its Feb. 4 meeting. The department has plans to begin creating maps that indicate wells and their location as well as the groundwater presence in the area to see the possible impact a large-scale dairy could have on local well-being.