As a Kewaunee County citizen, I have watched with great interest, for the past two years, the continued campaign against wind turbines here. Dozens of very well-done signs still dot the county, and Senator Frank Lasee continues to have an active voice against these turbines. There certainly are issues with wind turbines, no dispute; but personally, it seems that while Kewaunee has actively pursued this issue, they fail to address the real elephant in the room, the 16 concentrated animal feeding operations we have here. If your math is good, and you’d like to dispute that figure, I should clarify that we have 15 permitted operations, while one unpermitted CAFO operates here without permits, including a WPDES [Wisconsin pollution discharge elimination system] permit, and instead uses a US waterway, the East Twin River, as its wastewater management.
The signs in the county say things like…Wind Turbines…Lower Property Values…Threaten Ground Water…Threatens Wildlife…Your Tax Dollars are Blown Away…Ruins Lives, Friendships, Communities…create Noise…Health and Safety Risks. Ironically enough, some of these very signs are right in the vicinity of these large factory farms. Let us look at these same issues as they relate to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations here.
#1. Lowers Property Values. When a CAFO moves in, it is a known fact that home values plummet 10-90%. For most individuals, the single most important investment they have is found in their home. This devaluation is crippling to the average person, unless you have the ability financially and physically to recover from such a blow.
#2. Threatens Groundwater. CAFOs are notorious polluters of water. Having such a large concentration of animals and waste makes an area highly susceptible to both air and water pollution issues. Kewaunee County currently has roughly 30% of its wells contaminated with high nitrates/and or E-Coli. A number of residents fearful of polluted wells chose not to know their well’s status—and do not test their wells in spite of health risks that could potentially hurt themselves or their children.
#3. Threatens Wildlife. This is huge. Polluted waterways in Kewaunee County come with a tremendous cost to our wildlife. Class 1 trout streams are extremely threatened, and massive fish kills, like the one that occurred a few years back from a “spill”, was costly in terms of the amount of fish killed and the cost to the state in replenishing all those fish that died. This spill was an environmental disaster, and if you remember correctly the DNR was very effective in getting the information and the event under “damage control” by stating that, while under enforcement, the public is not privy to information on the case. Nothing like having an environmental disaster…just go away.
It would be negligent under this heading if we do not also address the clear-cut practices of eliminating hedgerows and tree lines on properties. Stewards of old knew that proper conservation practices of areas such as these helped in erosion control, run-off, and provided habitat for wildlife as well. It seems to be a common practice now to see this important eco-system devalued and eliminated.
#4. Tax Dollars Blown Away. These large farm operations and their bloated expansions are fueled by Mega, Mega Taxpayer Subsidies. And those roads that are getting all the wear and tear from their continued use and mega-machinery…well those road repairs are bought by you and me, the taxpayers.
#5. Ruins Lives, Friendships, Communities. The politics of this issue tear apart communities, separate people, and create contention among community members. Silence prevails among a large number of the community… which stems from fear, one’s need to keep things at “work”, among “neighbors”, and within ones family unit, and extended family, “peaceful”. Perhaps the greatest tragedy lies in those individuals that stand to be displaced from their homes because 86.2 million gallons of untreated, raw manure has just become their new neighbor.
#6. Health and Safety Risks. The health and safety risks that CAFO’s pose for individuals and their community are great. The reality of these operations are that they contaminate our air with high levels of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane (that “fart” smell), and particulate matter that can irritate one’s throat and lungs. As stated earlier, these operations and water contamination go hand in hand. Nitrate levels as high as 27 ppm can be found here in Kewaunee County; 10ppm is considered dangerous to one’s health. Couple that with E-Coli (fecal matter) found in wells, and you have a well that is contaminated–not fit for human consumption. While we may know that ingesting water such as this can make one ill, you can only wonder, is bathing in it safe? The human skin is the largest breathing organ on a person, and is permeable to whatever touches it.
#7. Noise. These large farms have confused the “Right to Farm” laws with “We have the workforce and the ability to work all night long mentality”…and we don’t care what our neighbors think. Last summer I got up to check on my sleepless children only to find large farm machinery operating at 1 AM in the morning. It literally sounded like someone cutting down the back forty! I thought there’s no way you could harvest firewood in the middle of the night—who would even think of such a notion? This event did not have anything to do with getting the harvest in, or avoiding a weather event. Sorry, just because you have the ability to work all night, it doesn’t mean your neighbors are OK with your noisy activities…which go beyond plain rude, disregard.
Senator Lasee, where is your voice on his issue? Many of the wind turbine issues certainly parallel issues with these large factory farms. Citizens have contacted your office with their concerns. Senator Lasee we would like to see you out here to witness what is going on, and the needs of YOUR constituents. We will continue to speak with other senators, even though they all keep echoing, “What does YOUR Senator, Frank Lasee think?” Well, Senator Lasee?
A Concerned Kewaunee County Citizen