Dairy opponents question panels
If you go
What: Public hearing on the Rock Prairie Dairy's application for a Wisconsin wastewater discharge permit
When and where: 4 p.m. Monday, May 9, at Craig Center, Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave., Janesville.
Details: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will host the hearing. If you cannot attend, you may submit comments in writing to Mark Cain, DNR, SCR Headquarters, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, WI, 53711. Call Cain at (608) 275-3252 or email@example.com.
When someone proposes a livestock production facility big enough to need state permits, a group of concerned citizens usually steps up to oppose it.
In Rock County, they are the Friends of the Rock Prairie, and members spent Wednesday night airing concerns and questions with two Rock County Board committees.
Since the state's livestock facility siting law went into effect in 2009, about 50 of confined animal feeding operation applications have been approved, county conservationist Tom Sweeney told the group. None have been denied, he said.
"With just about every application, a group has stepped up to learn what they can do to oppose the farm or to make it fit better into the community," Sweeney said during the land conservation committee meeting. "It's about impossible to stop it."
The conservation department has done all it can do to regulate the proposed 5,200-cow dairy in Rock County, Sweeney said. The department has issued three permits to the farm, including a manure storage permit, Sweeney said.
The Rock County Health Department also has been reviewing the proposal and learning about concentrated animal feeding operations, Rock County Environmental Health Director Tim Banwell told the group during Wednesday's board of health meeting.
In a couple weeks, the department will publish a list of recommendations for owner Todd Tuls of Columbus, Neb. The document will not be legally binding but could encourage Tuls to operate the farm with the health of the public in mind, Banwell said. But Banwell said he could not grant the group's wish of stopping the dairy.
"We're hoping with a health impact assessment, we can get the operator to make changes to his processes," Banwell said. "But I have to agree with you there are limits to what we are going to be able to do."
The draft recommendations include monitoring wells, notifying neighbors of manure application plans, monitoring emissions and providing health checks for workers.
Banwell said his department is working to get some " to test wells near the site of the proposed farm at Highway 14 and Scharine Road in Bradford Township. The county has some test results on file for wells near the site but wants to get a group of samples in a short amount of time, he said.
Tim Bliss lives in Bradford Township near the Walworth County line and is a member of the friends group. He knows the community and knows that people at risk for health issues, including children, live near the proposed site.
"I don't care how sparsely populated it is," Bliss said. "There's a strong likelihood of health impacts."