Wisconsin State Journal

December 17, 2013

Charlie Talbert: Fault for manure spill goes beyond digester

Source: http://host.madison.com, December 13, 2-13
By: Charlie Talbert

An editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal recently asserted that there would be public outcry if a factory farm had been responsible for the 300,000 gallons of phosphorus-laden manure spilled on Nov. 24 into Six Mile Creek, a tributary to Madison’s lakes.

But in fact, factory farms are the cause of this spill. Two of the three principal dairy operations that pipe poop to the Waunakee manure digester are designated CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The three together hold about 3,000 cows. Some perspective: The EPA estimates that just 2,500 cows generate as much waste as a city the size of Miami.

Media reporting has placed only the digester in the spotlight of blame. And yes, equipment or human error there is the proximate cause, but it’s not the ultimate one. Cows excrete manure, not facilities.

Holding the digester alone responsible for this mess unfairly implicates its principal source of funding, the public. Taxpayers paid for most of this $12 million digester. The remaining money came from Clear Horizons LLC, which will be repaid from the sale of electricity the digester generates. The CAFOs themselves paid nothing toward the cost of construction. And they pay nothing toward its ongoing operating costs.

Imagine any other industry that could dump its pollution costs this way onto taxpayers. It wouldn’t be the manufacturing industry. Consider the recent experience of the Madison-Kipp aluminum die cast factory in Madison. For polluting nearby groundwater, it’s been ordered to compensate neighbors $7.2 million, and a state environmental lawsuit is pending. Why the difference?…

November 12, 2013

City, state ask Madison-Kipp to replace tainted soil in rain garden

Source: The Wisconsin State Journal, November 5, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The city and state want Madison-Kipp to remove tainted soil from a large drainage ditch between the company and Capital City Bike Trail.

The city-owned “rain garden,” created in 2006 and planted with prairie plants to filter runoff, showed high levels of PCBs in tests last year, and the city and state Department of Natural Resources now want the East Side company to remove the top few feet of soil and replace it with clean soil. Kipp has agreed.

All entities say, “Let’s get rid of this,” said John Hausbeck of Public Health Madison-Dane County.

The city and Kipp minimized immediate health threats but said it’s prudent to remove the soils.

“Those using the bike path generally would not be exposed to what’s going on in the ditch,” Hausbeck said.

Mark Meunier, the company’s vice president of human resources, added, “No one goes in the rain garden. It doesn’t pose an immediate health hazard to anyone. We were asked, ‘Will you dig it out?’ That will be done shortly.”

Ald. Marsha Rummel, 6th District, who represents the area, called the remediation plan “good news.”

City, DNR and Kipp officials, who met Monday, are now deciding the best plan to remove the soil, Hausbeck and Meunier said.…

April 2, 2013

Frac-sand mining controls proposed as demand grows

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, March 27, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Responding to the explosion in the number of frac-sand mining operations in Wisconsin, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is circulating a set of five bills that would give local governments and property owners more information and more power over the location and operation of such facilities.

Vinehout, D-Alma, represents a district in western Wisconsin that includes numerous mines and processing plants. About 100 such operations have been proposed around Wisconsin in the past two years as demand for the fine-grained sand has grown.

Frac sand is found primarily in central and northwestern Wisconsin and is used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a method that releases trapped oil and natural gas reserves that is booming in Texas, North Dakota, New York and elsewhere.

Vinehout’s bills would require:

–Frac-sand operations to obtain conditional use permits, allowing local officials to negotiate conditions of operation for mines and processing plants.

–Counties to issue licenses for sand exploration and for the state Department of Natural Resources to provide technical assistance, if needed, to counties.

–A 30-day public notice and notifications to nearby property owners and occupants any time a local government is considering a sand application.

–A property seller to disclose any proposals for sand operations on any neighboring property.

–A 2,500-foot buffer between sand operations and single- or two-family residential zoning districts.

Vinehout described the measures as “a common-sense approach to involving local people in decision making by arming them with information.” She said she separated the proposed legislation into five bills in hopes of gaining some support from Republicans, who control both the Assembly and Senate.

“I feel like there were some pieces we could all agree on,” she said.

Email and voice messages left with the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Association, which represents frac-sand operators, were not immediately returned Tuesday.

 …

March 23, 2011

Madison considers tougher standards for well pollutants

Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), March 22, 2011
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

With more contaminants being found in city wells, the Madison Water Board is considering a tougher approach to pollutants, including heightened monitoring, filters and other treatments.

Contamination of Madison’s public drinking water wells by industrial pollutants is a growing problem. For example, pollutants are a thorny issue in Well No. 15 on the city’s East Side, and recently the possible carcinogen chromium-6 was found in all but three of 16 operating wells tested for the metal.

Madison is not alone. Lee Boushon, who heads the public water section for the state Department of Natural Resources, said other cities face increased contamination of their drinking water and are considering more aggressive regulatory approaches.…