It’s been a week since we posted information on the proposed 13-million gallon manure pit and our opinion on its effect on community development. Today’s Green Bay Press-Gazette published an article that follows up on the original story, aired by WFRV-TV, exposing the opposition to the planned expansion by Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy.
Stay tuned for more information and comments on this important, local issue.
Written by Nathan Phelps, Green Bay Press-Gazette 12/19/2011
WEST KEWAUNEE — A Kewaunee County dairy producer says he’ll take another look at plans for a proposed manure storage area in West Kewaunee after hearing concerns raised by nearby residents.
Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, located off Kewaunee County C in West Kewaunee, has asked the state to allow the operation to expand manure storage on the site near the intersection of the Kewaunee County F and Birchwood Road.
But the proposal has been met with staunch opposition from nearby residents who have petitioned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to oppose the expansion.
Pagel met with nearby residents and town officials last week.
“I told them I’d go back to the drawing board and see what we could do to shrink the size of the pit and still get the job done that I need done, and bring it further away from the property lines,” he said. “We’re currently legal, but they would like it to be a little further back. Our plan is to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to address their concerns.
“He said the farm is still looking at expanding at the location, but at what size is unknown.
“I know we’ll be able to do something,” he said.
The original expansion plan increases site capacity from about 800,000 gallons to about 13 million gallons, according to the farm’s proposal in its Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
More than 20 residents near the proposed site have filed letters and a petition with the state asking for a public hearing on the matter, citing concerns ranging from proximity of the pit to drinking water sources and the proximity of nearby homes. They have also raised issues about traffic, closeness to waterways and recreational land and depreciation of property values if the project is allowed to continue.
Some also contend state regulations have not kept pace with the expansion of dairy operations in the state.
“My house is going to be worthless … and who wants to live next to it?” said Ted Mueller, one of the residents near the proposed site. “This isn’t just us … You don’t have 40- or 50-cow farms anymore, you’re looking at thousands of cows in one area. They’ve got to make certain restrictions on what these guys can do and where they can do it so they’re not stepping on so many other people.
“Mueller, who grew up on a dairy farm and still has family involved in agriculture, said neighbors don’t want the pit due to the proximity to 10 homes in the area, including his, which would be about 200 feet from the pit in the initial proposal.
Residents would like to see the pit closer to the main farm, about three miles from the proposed site.
“We’re trying to get him to change his mind or find another piece of property,” Mueller said. “Or at least put it further away from the houses.
“The DNR has given Pagel the go-ahead to construct the facility, but approval to actually use it is still pending, said Amy Callis, who held the position of agricultural runoff management specialist and is now agricultural nonsource point implementation coordinator.
Pagel’s Ponderosa “has approval to construct it … but he can’t put manure in it until that (Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit is modified,” she said.
Pagel said the pit is near land the farm uses for spreading manure.
“We’re expanding it so we can haul there in the off season and irrigate the manure out of the lagoon rather than hauling and irrigating it out of semis,” he said.
The state may schedule an informational hearing about the matter in light of the opposition, said Callis, who has taken a new job within the department. Comments opposing the expansion have been received, but not yet reviewed — pending a replacement for Callis.
Public notice of the planned expansion was published in late October.
Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy operates an anaerobic digester that converts methane from manure to electricity and also mitigates manure odor.
Pagel said he plans to meet with residents to explain the expansion and show them his farm.
At the earliest, construction would start in the spring.
He expects to meet with residents again in January.
Mueller said he and others are willing to work with Pagel to resolve the situation.
“We want to get something worked out here where everyone is kinda satisfied, including John,” he said. “We’re not trying to cause any problems, we just want to eliminate future problems.
“We’re all in farmland, we understand that, we just don’t want to have to deal with this huge (manure pit) by our houses,” Mueller said.