Portage County executives present resolution for taxpayers concerning monitoring CAFO
For the City Times
PORTAGE COUNTY – At a Portage County Land and Water Conservation Committee (LWCC) on May 3, newly-elected County Executive John Pavelski presented a resolution opposing the DNR’s proposal to require Gordondale Farms to pay for monitoring wells under manure application fields. Instead, taxpayers would be asked to pick up the tab.
Gordondale Farms is a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) and apparent source of high nitrate concentrations in Village of Nelsonville private wells. Half of the Village’s wells exceed the safe drinking water standard of 10 parts per million for nitrate. Gordondale Farms is permitted for 2,500 animal units and employs 21 workers.
The resolution was presented to the LWCC at its first meeting with new membership following the spring elections. Only two of the six members have taken part in years of discussion on the CAFO and
Nelsonville nitrate contamination. After an hour of public comment, the LWCC tabled the resolution.
Supervisors cited the short time frame they’d had to review the proposal as well as the significant concerns expressed by Nelsonville residents and groundwater scientists.
According to Ray Reser, a former Portage County Supervisor, although state statutes allow a county executive to introduce resolutions, this one is “a bit unusual” in that it “is looking to protect a single private entity from permit-required due diligence monitoring meant to protect public health” rather than considering the welfare of all Portage County stakeholders.
The county also doesn’t have jurisdiction over DNR oversight of pollution discharge permits.
The resolution contains misleading information, according to Dr. George Kraft, a groundwater expert who has advised the county and Nelsonville residents on pollution matters.
“The resolution contains information that has been debunked or is purely aspirational as to how hoped for measures will address the Nelsonville problem. It asserts that discredited practices the farm uses will solve the problem, that preliminary involvement with a soil health expert is going to lead to solutions, and claims, without evidence, that the farm will become insolvent.”
According to Nelsonville resident Lisa Anderson, Nelsonville residents have experienced a variety of health problems caused by the contaminated water, and have been working with the county for five years to find a solution.
“The resolution, if successful, would mean that the county board would be staking out the county’s position on where the responsibility lies to address nitrate contamination – that would be with private well owners and other taxpayers and not the CAFO that is contaminating our wells,” she said.
After the resolution was tabled, discussion continued for another two hours.This won’t be the end of the work needed to bring safe drinking water back to the residents of the Village of Nelsonville.
DNR will be holding a virtual public hearing on Gordondale Farms’ wastewater permit on Thursday, May 12. To access materials for the hearing and register for the Zoom, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Wastewater/PublicNotices.html and scroll down to Gordondale Farms.