After the Sept. 15 public hearing held at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay regarding rule changes for the spreading of manure on karst topography, Rep. Joel Kitchens believes the new rules have a good chance of being approved by his colleagues in the legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
“I’m optimistic we’ll be OK with that,” he said. “I have talked to the governor about it. He’s been happy seeing the agriculture groups and the conservation groups have been accepting. I’m optimistic it will be fine.”
The major issue lodged against the draft rules by environmental groups is that the rules do not go far enough in protecting other potentially vulnerable areas of the state from groundwater contamination by agricultural manure.
“We are disappointed that the proposed rules only apply to areas in the Silurian bedrock on the eastern side of Wisconsin,” said Seth Hoffmeister, northeast organizer for Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, in his statement at the hearing. “We understand that the geologic data necessary to implement this rule has not been mapped as extensively in other areas of the state, but we cannot allow another region-wide drinking water crisis to develop in areas with karst topography.”
That complaint has been echoed by other conservation organizations, but Kitchens said getting the DNR to even consider these rule changes is a major step, and it’s being done in this region because of all the work that has already been done on the issue, with studies determining that the widespread well contamination in Kewaunee County is being caused by bovine waste from agricultural operations leeching into the groundwater. The studies also found human waste from failed septic systems contaminating the water.
“Those other areas haven’t done the leg work yet,” Kitchens said. “They have not proven that the current rules won’t protect the water. They need to implement what they have at their disposal first. To me it’s a really big step, and I think those conservation groups recognize that.”
The DNR is accepting comments on the rule changes through Oct. 4. You can find the draft rules here: dnr.wi.gov/news/input/documents/rules/WT1516DraftRule.pdf.