A Green County town continues to fight a state permit for a 5,800-cow dairy farm.
Pinnacle Dairy northwest of Brodhead began operating last year after a lengthy battle with opponents concerned about the farm’s impact on water quality. The farm received necessary approval from the state Department of Natural Resources about a year ago.
The town of Sylvester, where the farm is located, is continuing the legal fight. The town believes the farm’s wastewater permit is “unreasonable” because of weak water quality protections, according to a notice published in March.
The DNR, Pinnacle and the town held a prehearing conference April 17 in Madison to discuss appeal terms and agree they would have a tentative hearing schedule set by May 24, according to a report from that conference.
Last summer, the DNR granted the town’s request for an appeal provided the scope is limited to several wastewater management conditions, including:
- Lack of assurance groundwater above the water table will be drained properly
- No required sampling or monitoring at manure application sites
- Authorization to discharge manure and pollutants that exceed state water quality and groundwater standards
Until the appeal is resolved, the farm is not required to install groundwater monitoring wells or provide the DNR with water table level reports.
Pinnacle is a new farm without a prior wastewater permit. If it had a previous permit, that one would have been in effect while the current document is being challenged, DNR Communications Director Sarah Hoye wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Green County Conservationist Todd Jenson said the county has worked closely with Pinnacle Dairy to address any manure-related issues since the farm opened. He is not expecting any water quality problems to impact nearby Searles Creek even without monitoring wells or water table reports.
T.J. Tuls, whose family operates Pinnacle and Rock Prairie Dairy east of Janesville, said the farm is taking water samples from its high capacity wells in the meantime.
The town has “fought us through the whole process,” but Tuls said he is confident the permit will be upheld in court. He hoped that with some new faces on the Sylvester Town Board the two sides could be “neighborly” and have better relations going forward.
The town declined to comment and directed all inquiries to information on the DNR website.
An appeal hearing would likely begin in February 2020 if the two sides cannot reach a settlement in the coming months, according to the prehearing conference report.