Door County Supervisor Cited for Waste Runoff Violations

Door County Board Supervisor Patrick Olson faces penalties for failing to comply with state rules governing agricultural waste handling.

The County of Door filed a complaint in circuit court Sept. 8, 2010 to force Olson to comply with Wisconsin Natural Resources Rule 151, governing manure management prohibitions. Door County Circuit Court Judge Peter Diltz issued a summary judgment in favor of the county Nov. 17.

The Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department (SWCD) found six violations on Olson’s farm at 6285 Salona Road in Clay Banks over four visits to his property in February and March of 2007 and January of 2008. On April 2, 2008, Olson was issued a notice of non-compliance.

The SWCD ruled that Olson, who represents Clay Banks and Ward 1 of the Town of Forestville, had to build a long-term manure storage facility and manage the barnyard runoff, but he has refused. In such cases a landowner has several options to come into compliance.

“It’s not a prescriptive law, it’s a performance law,” Bill Schuster, head of the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department, said, meaning the state doesn’t tell you exactly how you have to comply, just that you must meet the standards somehow. “We provide cost-sharing to do the most thorough approach, but that doesn’t mean that the landowner has to do it that way. There are other less-expensive solutions in most cases.”

That could mean simply not allowing livestock to graze in certain areas and putting up a fence to keep them out of a stream and spreading manure at different times or in different places.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will provide 70 percent cost sharing for the landowner to follow best-management practices and for some less expensive remedies. For Olson, the total cost of building the most comprehensive solution was estimated to be $141,549, of which he was offered $99,084 in cost sharing by the department through the Targeted Runoff Management Program. Olson was bound to comply by Oct. 1, 2009; but he never pursued compliance with SWCD, and he never accepted the money available to him.

Olson, a fourth generation farmer, appealed the SWCD ruling to the Door County Land Conservation Committee (DCLCC). At the June 19, 2008 hearing before the DCLCC, Olson contended that his farm was compliant with state standards.

“I have no problems on my farm,” Olson said. “I use manure storage for only a short time in winter and spread on just 35 of my 800 acres each year. How could I have any pollution?”

Olson said he installed a concrete manure bed with one concrete wall and two clay walls in 1978 for winter manure storage. Photos provided by SWCD at the DCLCC hearing show that runoff from the bed flows into his pasture and into a creek in violation of Wisconsin Natural Resources Statute 151.08. That rule states that “a livestock operation shall have no overflow of manure storage facilities.”

Olson contended that the photos were doctored and that the county was singling him out because he had defeated former Supervisor Bob Ryan in the previous election.

Schuster denied singling Olson out at the hearing, pointing out that five other farms were cited for non-compliance the same day as Olson’s. From 1986 – 2008 108 farms were cited for similar reasons and forced to come into compliance with the statute.

Olson said he has kicked SWCD staff off his property several times and has hung up on staff each time they have called to discuss the problem and possible remedies with him. Since being elected to the county board in 2008 he has sought to have Schuster and his staff dismissed and the Soil and Water Conservation Department eliminated.

The DCLCC denied Olson’s appeal on July 11, 2008. Pursuant to state statute, Olson had 30 days to seek judicial review of the decision, but he did not dispute the decision until he answered the county’s complaint in circuit court on Sept. 28, 2010, when he filed suit for a judicial review of his appeal hearing.

In his Nov. 17 decision Judge Peter Diltz dismissed that request. Diltz will decide on the remedy and any penalties Olson faces at a Dec. 19 hearing.