A large dairy operation that spilled manure into Castle Rock Creek in February has also failed for an undetermined length of time to prevent rainwater and snow melt from carrying potentially harmful pollutants down steep hillsides toward the popular trout stream.
The owner of Misty Morning Dairy near Fennimore in southwestern Wisconsin has told state regulators that he has fixed most of the smaller problems they documented in a March 17 inspection, a Department of Natural Resources spokesman said Friday.
But the owner still has not built long-promised concrete structures to keep nutrient-laden stormwater from leaching out of feed stored on the Wood Road property for the more than 1,700 animals it was estimated to house, DNR wastewater engineer Mark Cain said Friday.
“He has told us he just can can’t afford to do it right now,” he said.
Runoff of nutrients from animal feed and manure from farms is regulated because it contributes to unnatural weed and algae growths in lakes and streams.
When the owner missed a July 1, 2014, deadline to add stormwater control structures to the existing hillside feed storage area, DNR regulators told him he needed to regularly empty the storage bunkers to minimize the problem, Cain said.
At one point, the owner said construction on new feed storage structures would begin June 1, Cain said.
During the March 17 inspection, DNR employees said they found signs such as bacterial growths, feed particles and a visible sheen on the ground that indicated nutrients from feed storage had washed down the hill and at least to the edge of the roadside ditch that feeds into the creek.
And on that day, Misty Morning owner Randall Mouw told the agency that it wouldn’t be possible to begin work on a new feed storage structure by June 1, DNR officials said in a notice of violation issued April 8.
Mouw, who purchased the property in 2011 and has had financial challenges as he expanded the operation, didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday.
In the notice of violation, the DNR told Mouw he could face a $10,000 penalty and be required to pay damages for fish killed by the manure spill if he didn’t comply with terms of his permit to run a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.
Mouw has since told the DNR he has made needed changes including keeping manure-laden sand on a concrete pad to minimize runoff, eliminating an unauthorized pile of solid manure that was discharging bad-smelling liquid, keeping records on disposal of dead animals, and tracking levels in two lagoons that can hold a total of 7.2 million gallons of liquid manure, Cain said.
Mouw disposed of dead cattle in piles of solid manure that were being composted. One pile was in a place on the farm that wasn’t properly equipped for composting, the DNR said. Disposing of dead cattle in an authorized manure compost pile is allowed, but inspectors found bones and rotting material indicating the carcasses weren’t being turned to allow decomposition without strong odors, Cain said.
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Improper storage of manure-laden sand had resulted in a ditch on the property being filled with material that had washed away, the inspection report states. The ditch ended on a hillside where rainwater flowed down to a roadside ditch that leads to the creek, Cain said.
The inspection report includes a map indicating five paths rainwater follows down the hill away from the farm to ditches and other routes that end in Castle Rock Creek.
When Mouw bought the property, it had fewer than the 1,000-cow threshhold that requires a CAFO permit to ensure proper handling of the large amounts of feed and manure that will be present. In 2011, he applied for a CAFO permit, but withdrew the application, saying investors had dropped out of the project, Cain said.
In March 2013, the owner called the DNR to ask for help preventing a 1-million-gallon manure pit from overflowing, according to a DNR environmental cleanup report.
The farm was filing for bankruptcy and could not pay haulers to empty the pit, so the DNR hired a private waste hauler for $50,000, which Mouw later repaid, DNR officials said.
Ten months later, the DNR issued Misty Morning a CAFO permit. The owners said they had 1,340 animals in 2013, and projected the number to increase to 1,719 in 2014.
CAFO permits forbid discharges of pollutants into surface water. When violations are discovered, the DNR asks permit holders to voluntarily make changes. Often, a permit holder will request an enforcement conference when informal negotiations don’t lead to agreement on what must be done. Mouw hasn’t requested such a conference, DNR spokesman Jim Dick said.
The DNR has the option of sending the violation to the state Department of Justice, which can seek monetary penalties in court.
The March 17 inspection at Misty Morning Dairy was prompted by a Feb. 18 spill the dairy estimated at between 30,000 and 120,000 gallons. A hose came loose from an unattended pump in the middle of the night as manure was being moved from one lagoon to another, the DNR said.
The manure ran down the hill, then through culverts and into spring flows for two miles to Castle Rock Creek, which is listed by the state as an “outstanding resource water” and Class II trout stream.
On Feb. 22, DNR fisheries personnel found about 50 dead fish, but deep pools were too murky to be sure there were not more. A later survey of the creek found fewer than 50 live adult trout in one stretch where 200 to 400 were found in previous counts.
The DNR said it planned to release hundreds of extra yearling trout, but it will be years before they grow to the 17-inch size anglers are accustomed to catching.