While water quality is still the main concern with the constant application of liquid manure from CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) to area fields, consider the damage those heavy manure haulers are doing to county roads. The day and night traffic of 4,000- to 6,000-gallon tankers (that’s 32,000-48,000 pounds of water only plus the weight of the hauling rig) is pounding the pavement until it ultimately fails. When road repair is needed, the cost is shared by county taxpayers.
Now under consideration by the Town of West Kewaunee is a proposed weight limit ordinance that will require a permitting process for all haulers and impose fines or penalties on the permitee who causes damage to roads. The network of CAFOs throughout Kewaunee County puts nearly all major county roads at risk. Weight limit restrictions should apply to all county roads and to all carriers, agricultural or commercial.
Last fall, the State passed a law to allow highway commissioners to set their own weight limits on County roads (not State or Town roads). Marathon County, Wisconsin responded with a new policy that allows tractors with up to 5,000-gallon tankers or semi mounted tankers. Anything larger is too heavy when full of liquid manure. Some manure hauling rigs there have weighed in at over 134,000 pounds, well over the 48,000 pound limit during customary seasonal posting of roads. Also, that’s well above the maximum gross vehicle weight of 92,000 pounds allowed during January 1 through spring posting and again from the end of spring posting to August 31.
Naturally there will be a lot of finger-pointing placing blame on others or regular wear and tear.
Too often, money is spent on remediation of problems rather than preventing them. The weight limit ordinance is a step in the right direction to prevent damage to the infrastructure. But it might not go far enough. GPS technology is available to track the location of a vehicle at any given time. Commercial trucking firms use it to track progress of shipments and to keep its employees in compliance with company regulations. Also, random weight checks might not be a bad idea to keep haulers from carrying heavier-than-permitted loads. Marathon County’s Sheriff Department and State Highway Patrol have been enforcing the weight limits there by taking manure tankers over certified scales and issuing steep fines if they are breaking the law.
The CAFO industry wants to be self-regulated, but doesn’t want to be accountable or responsible for the damage it’s doing to the community. The current DNR administrator also thinks self-regulation is better than imposing threats of fines or closure. Because the DNR can’t or won’t regulate the CAFO industry, it’s going to be up to individual communities to stand up for the rights and well-being of their citizens. The Town of West Kewaunee is doing just that. Others should follow their lead.
Read the entire proposed weight limit ordinance below: