Permit for Heifer Operation a Victory for Clean Water

, By Clean Wisconsin

More monitoring equipment and a call for nitrate-reduction will help reduce pollution in Adams County

MADISON — An Adams County heifer operation must install additional monitoring equipment and continue efforts to clean up the groundwater under a state wastewater permit granted Tuesday. The permit comes amid a large public outcry over nitrate contamination at Burr Oak Heifers, in Richfield, Adams County.

“This is a victory for clean water where DNR rightfully acted in the public interest by enforcing groundwater standards protective of public health,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin.

Nearly 100 people attended a public hearing in April to call foul on a proposed permit that would have allowed nitrate concentrations at the farm to be nearly three times higher than the 10 milligram per liter public health standard. Although Burr Oak Heifers was required to pay $65,000 for past groundwater contamination under a 2013 Wisconsin Department of Justice ruling, the water remained contaminated months later. Remediation efforts are now underway. The permit granted Tuesday limits nitrate concentrations to the 10 milligram per liter public health standard, and requires two additional monitoring wells on site.

“Nitrate contamination is a threat to public health and it is DNR’s responsibility to ensure that health-based drinking water standards are being met,” said Wheeler.

Clean Wisconsin argued in favor of more stringent groundwater standards at Burr Oak Heifers, based on its independent review of the site’s hydrogeology. The EPA specifies that infants or pregnant women who consume water in excess of the 10 milligram per liter concentration could become short of breath, seriously ill, or suffer blue baby syndrome, a circulatory ailment that in some cases is fatal.