The state has finally acknowledged that Kewaunee County has a groundwater problem. A $50,000 report that was paid for by taxpayers through the Wisconsin Public Service Commission stated that a $188 million project is feasible to address groundwater contamination from Kewaunee County farms. The report studied the use of pipelines to pump 86 percent of the manure generated within the county to ten processing centers. Besides manure, the system would also process at least 20 percent additional organic waste from unidentified sources and hauled to each processing center. The 10 facilities would use equipment to the separate solids from the liquid in the manure. Additionally, methane gas would be collected and pumped to two other facilities that would clean, concentrate, and pump the gas into the natural gas pipeline running through Kewaunee County.
The report states that the solids could be reused as cattle bedding or field spread. According to the report, the remaining 338 million gallons/year of “clean” liquid could be used to irrigate crops, used in farm operations, and/or discharged to surface water.
Based upon a simple economic evaluation, the report claims that the cost to construct the ten processing centers, 66 miles of pipelines, and the two gas concentration plants will be $188,000,000. The annual operating expense is estimated at $25,000,000. The report infers that the sale of concentrated gas could generate up to $62 million annually. This limited economic date in the report indicates that the system could pay for itself in less than 10 years.
The state is now requesting bids on the construction of this type of system. Some simple questions that should be answered before money is spent on this multimillion project are: 1) Will the discharged “clean” water be suitable for discharge to surface waters? 2) Can the system be expanded to handle additional manure? 3) Where will the non-manure organic waste come from? 4) What happens to the economics of gas sales with the new federal administration? 4) Is there any cost to the participating farms? Furthermore, what entity will own this project? Who will provide the capital for construction? And, will participation by all farmers be mandatory?
I find it curious that the state decided to come to the aid of farmers to the tune of $20,000,000 to help develop a complex system to address groundwater and surface water problem of their own making. This money comes from all taxpayers’ pockets and will be given as welfare to those same farmers. If the Dynamic Concepts report is actually correct, the county farmers should be able to find private funding for this system, which has such a favorable return on the investment.
I believe that the $20,000,000 would better be used for education, road repairs, and perhaps even providing drinkable water to affected households.