Proposed ‘mega-dairy’ may close before opening

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.

rmccoppin@tribune.com

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Proposed ‘mega-dairy’ may close before opening

  1. Attorney General Lisa Madigan is my hero and has announced the filing of a proposed settlement with Tradition Investment, LLC, concerning the construction of a mega dairy operation here in Jo Daviess County.
    The settlement proposes to resolve a water pollution complaint filed last year with the Illinois Pollution Control Board against Tradition for allowing the discharge of leachate from silage stored at the site into the South Fork of the Apple River. The complaint also alleged a violation of permit requirements because Tradition failed to have the requisite National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit at the time the discharge occurred.
    Tradition has informed the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that it is in the process of selling the site. The company is also removing the remaining liquid in the site’s concrete basin and the adjoining earthen basin and applying it to agricultural land in accordance with applicable environmental regulations.
    After battling this looming disaster for five years, we now get to have a sigh of relief and a victory celebration. Before popping the first cork, we need to give thanks to some people who heard our cries for help.
    Thank you to: Governor Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Division Chief Matthew Dunn, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane McBride, and the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
    Thank you for understanding that our water is worth protecting and fighting for.

    Susan Turner
    Warren, IL

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  2. “”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.””
    Citizens need to realize, no matter what size the catastrophe might be, LLCs or Limited Liability Corporations are only responsible for $1,000 dollars in damages. (AJ Bos) Tradition Investment LLC spent more in legal fees than the $250,000 fine proposed. That leaves a big budget deficit for the Attorney General and the EPA to deal with making it EVEN more difficult to POLICE the other bad actors trying to compete with Bos.
    Maybe if fines could actually be collected without litigation, department staff could be allowed to do their jobs and uphold the law sooner- rather than later. A small farmer, if fined (a smaller ratio catastrophe wise) tends to just pay the fine. A small farmer cares about what his community thinks of his actions.

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  3. Shelley

    Power to the people of the beautiful Galena area in Illinois for protecting the air, water, and countryside where they live. Thank you!!! Looks like money can’t buy everything after all….

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  4. Roger

    What has happened to what used to be beautiful Kewaunee County? Jo Daviess County had one proposed Industrial Dairy, we live with the bitter reality of 15 (maybe more of these horrific things…who keeps count?)

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  5. Roger- I live six blocks from the WI state-line. There are many 500-1000 cow dairies and expansions all on karst 6 blocks north of me. We fought our proposal for 5 yrs only to have WI to accept the dairy mougal we fought….and his front men. Wisconsin’s water is my water.
    Susan

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