Dairy operation asserts DNR overstepped authority by requiring commonsense groundwater monitoring

MADISON — To protect the already strained water resources of Adams County, Clean Wisconsin intervened in a lawsuit today, defending the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ authority to require owners of high-capacity wells to monitor groundwater levels. The lawsuit, filed by New Chester Dairy, Grand Marsh, challenges the DNR’s right to do so.

“It is the DNR’s duty to protect our water, as it did by setting conditions on the new high-capacity wells New Chester applied for,” says Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental group. “New Chester Dairy should not fight this most basic protection of people’s water and health.”

In 2012, New Chester Dairy applied for two new high-capacity wells to increase the amount of water it pumps annually to 145 million gallons. The DNR approved the application, under the condition that New Chester’s owners install equipment to monitor groundwater levels. New Chester has since filed suit against the DNR, saying the department lacked the authority to impose the monitoring condition.

With more than 950 documented high-capacity wells, Adams County already has significant groundwater problems. These wells have dropped the level of nearby Patrick Lake about 2 feet, and groundwater modeling shows that New Chester’s proposed wells will drop the lake level another 2 inches to 3 inches. Nearby streams will also be impacted.

“With so many high-capacity wells, this area is already threatened by groundwater shortages,” says Wheeler. “It’s DNR’s responsibility to protect our water for everyone to use and enjoy. We strongly defend DNR’s ability to require commonsense water monitoring to protect the water and the people of Adams County.”