The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed charges against the owner of a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Kewaunee County, along with the manure hauler he hired to spread manure on his dairy’s land, and the agronomist that submitted a report about that manure spreading to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Our environmental laws and regulations are important safeguards protecting clean water for Wisconsinites, and those who are required to report to DNR must provide accurate information,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul, in a statement announcing the action.
As alleged in the complaint, defendant Johannes Wakker owned a dairy farm and needed to get rid of excess manure in late 2019, so he hired defendant Gregory Stodola to spread the manure on Wakker’s land. Stodola spread the manure on several fields, the complaint alleges, but the amount so far exceeded what Wakker’s permit allowed that it resulted in pollution discharges into tributaries leading to Lake Michigan, with E. Coli bacteria readings as much as 100 times those that would result in the closure of a public beach.
Because the large amount of manure spread on the Wakker farm exceeded the amount allowed by Wakker’s DNR permit, the complaint alleges that Stodola created a document that grossly underreported the manure actually spread – by over 1.9 million gallons. Stodola then gave this document to Wakker, the complaint alleges, who in turn gave it to defendant Benjamin Koss, a consultant hired by Wakker to file a required report about the manure spreading with DNR.
Knowing that the information was false, according to the complaint, Koss manipulated the numbers even further to “calibrate the books” such that the reported numbers would fit within DNR regulations before filing a report with the false information with DNR.
As in any criminal proceeding, the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The DNR led the investigation and the Criminal Litigation Unit of the Wisconsin DOJ Division of Legal Services is handling the prosecution. An initial appearance is scheduled in Kewaunee County Circuit Court for Jan. 12, 2023, at 2 pm.