By Robert McCoppin, Chicago Tribune reporter 11:15 pm, November 20, 2012
A controversial plan to build the largest dairy in Illinois has been put out to pasture, state officials announced Tuesday.
The Illinois attorney general’s office announced a proposed settlement in which the owners of the 5,500-head dairy planned near Galena will clean up and leave, to the joy of local opponents.
“We’ve agreed they would not seek permitting to allow the dairy, and they’ve decided to dismantle and be done with the project,” said Scott Mulford, a spokesman for the attorney general.
The agreement would end a four-year legal battle between California dairyman A.J. Bos and a group of area residents who fought his “mega-dairy,” fearing the vast amount of manure it would produce would foul the air and contaminate groundwater. The end comes without a cow ever being milked there.
Bos proposed the Tradition Dairy in 2008 near the northwestern Illinois town of Nora in Jo Daviess County. He maintained the site was safe and got a permit to proceed from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
He soon ran into resistance from opponents, who formed a group called HOMES and filed suit to stop the dairy. A judge halted work on the site in 2008, but the courts allowed the project to proceed in early 2011.
At the same time, the environmental protection agencies at state and federal levels began requiring more documentation from the dairy to prove that it would not contaminate the groundwater.
In April 2011, the Illinois attorney general’s office filed a complaint alleging that purple silage runoff, a liquid produced from stored corn, had leaked from the site and contaminated a nearby creek and the Apple River. Dairy officials maintained the liquid had done no harm, and they quickly took steps to prevent it from happening again.
Prosecutors proposed a fine of up to $250,000 for water pollution and operating without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
Under the settlement, the dairy would be fined $1,000 and required to dispose of the silage runoff in a safe manner so that it will not leak into nearby waters.
The settlement will be considered for approval by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
Danielle Diamond, attorney for the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, gave credit to local activists for stopping the “dangerous” project.
Officials with Tradition Dairy could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. They have said the project would have helped the state’s shrinking dairy industry, but that Gov. Pat Quinn’s opposition to the dairy unfairly tainted the regulatory process.