New Chester CAFO – Before the expansion!

It looks bad, It smells bad, it can be extremely hazardous to your health, and 14,000 truckloads of it may be coming soon to a school near you.

Like most things in life, manure has its place. The south end of a northbound cow comes to mind, and so do acres of farm fields that legitimately need fertilizer. But do we really want millions of gallons of it being generated every year by a single factory farm barely a mile from the Grand Marsh Grade School?

That’s the question being posed in Adams County by corporate farm giant Milk Source Holdings LLC as it completes plans to double the size of its New Chester Dairy Contained Area Feeding Operation to a mind bending 9,100 cows. Milk Source probably knows the answer, but it hasn’t showed many signs of caring. And unless people from all across Wisconsin demonstrate that they do, the DNR and state government won’t either.

Manure is of course both necessary and natural – just not in liquefied form at 100 million gallons a year spread within sniffing and drinking distance of the Grand Marsh kids’ playground. That’s what you’d get from the New Chester expansion, along with three waste storage ponds that can hold 63.1 million gallons of the stuff. And with it comes all the nitrates and phosphorus that have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems and various types of cancer when it’s been allowed to leak into our drinking water.

It’s the DNR’s job to make sure the leaking doesn’t happen, but the department’s approach to the job is anything but reassuring. Milk Source is planning another Adams County CAFO near Coloma called Richfield Dairy where the DNR has required the drilling of wells to sample and analyze the nitrogen and bacterial content of the waste water. But incredibly, the department doesn’t specify what levels would be harmful and what if any consequences would come from exceeding them.

The Richfield CAFO by the way is projected to house 4300 cows, but the DNR hasn’t put any limits on its size, and the CAFO could file applications to double in size at any time. With three law suits making their way through the courts, Richfield is a long way from a done deal. One look at what’s going on at Grand Marsh should tell you why it’s worth the fight.