Kewaunee Cares recently hosted members of Water Table, a coalition of organizations dedicated to water quality, for a day-long bus tour of Kewaunee County. The tour was organized to give the group a chance to see what area residents see every day. Of particular interest to the visitors was seeing the number and size of CAFOs in the county and learning how manure storage, spreading practices and lack of enforcement of violations threatens the groundwater and public health.
For many, this was the first time they had seen a CAFO up close. During the bus ride they also witnessed how manure was pouring from a tanker truck into a large dumpster-like container from which hoses deliver the liquid slurry to tractors injecting it into the soil. They also saw puddles of manure in the fields and a ditch filling with liquid manure from overflow or leakage at the transfer site from the tanker truck.
The tour group also had a “drive-through” tour of the Dairy Dreams facility in the northern part of the county. Owner Don Niles showed where his cows are kept, how they’re treated and what happens to the manure and waste water they produce.
One of the key features of Mr. Niles’ manure management system is an anaerobic digester that creates energy from methane gas, a by-product of the digesting process, and claims to reduce odors coming from the facility. But, even among CAFO owners this technology isn’t accepted as economical or effective in reducing odor. Neighboring CAFO owner, Lee Kinnard said in a Peninsula Pulse interview: “It makes absolutely zero economic sense,” he said. “Studies coming out actually indicate very negligible [reduction of], or possibly even more, odor from those types of facilities.”
Because the growth of factory farms is such a controversial issue in the county, discussions between operators and environmentalists are important to find solutions to the social and environmental issues that divide the two sides. Adding lawmakers and the DNR to the conversation will also be needed to achieve meaningful change.