DNR urged to study potential health and environmental impacts before moving forward

MADISON – With many unanswered questions about the potential for water pollution, air quality, odor management and other health and environmental impacts, additional study in the form of an environmental impact statement (EIS) is needed for a proposed 26,000-pig concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Bayfield County.

“There are a lot of questions that have been raised, and an EIS can help answer them,” says Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney at Clean Wisconsin. “We need to better understand this project and its potential impact before a permit for the site is issued or denied.”

In December 2014, Badgerwood LLC submitted an application to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to build a CAFO in the Town of Eileen, Bayfield County. As a farrowing facility, the company proposes to house over 26,000 pigs and apply 6.8 million gallons of liquid manure over 880 acres of land; once weaned, the piglets will be sent to Iowa. The proposal has sparked a number of concerns from local residents and environmental groups regarding the possible impacts. The operation has the potential to pollute water resources such as the Fish Creek and White River watersheds, which feed into nearby Lake Superior. In addition, the site could release harmful emissions and odors throughout neighboring communities. Today, Clean Wisconsin requested the DNR complete an EIS for Badgerwood.

“If permitted, the facility would be the first CAFO in Bayfield County,” says Wheeler. “Developing an EIS will allow citizens to voice their concerns about potential impacts and would provide a complete evaluation of the impacts so decision-makers can be fully informed.”

DNR recently revised its regulations for when an EIS must be prepared and now has broad discretion regarding whether or not to prepare an EIS for a CAFO; this proposal is one of the first CAFOs subject to the new rules. As Badgerwood LLC’s proposal has the potential to do environmental harm and may result in human health impacts, such as worsening air and water quality, an EIS is warranted. In addition, swine CAFOs are not common in Wisconsin, so more study is needed to evaluate the impacts specific to the pig-farrowing operation.

“It’s clear the project meets a number of standards requiring the DNR to issue an impact statement,” Wheeler says. “Any project that has the potential to harm Bayfield County’s natural resources deserves a thorough evaluation.”