The state Department of Natural Resources has made a final determination clearing the way for Dairy Dreams LLC to be reissued a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit for its concentrated animal feeding operation in Casco.

The permit, effective Feb. 1, 2018, through Jan. 31, 2023, sets the effluent limitations, monitoring requirements and other conditions regarding the management and use of manure and process wastewater generated by the operation’s 5,250 animal units.

An animal unit is defined as 1,000 pounds of animal weight. An adult dairy cow can weigh between 1,400 and 2,000 pounds. Dairy Dreams is not planning to expand its herd during the five-year term of the permit.

According to the notice of final determination, Dairy Dreams’ current liquid storage capacity is 212 days of waste storage. At its current size, the operation is expected to generate about 52.3 million gallons of manure and process wastewater annually.

Permit drafter Casey Jones, an agricultural runoff management specialist with the DNR, release a five-page summary of comments made about the WPDES application with the agency’s responses.

At a Nov. 28 public hearing for Dairy Dreams and four other CAFOs, the DNR received hearing slips from 83 participants – 44 in support, 24 opposed and 15 as interest may appear or no position indicated, Jones said; 21 provided oral comments.

Another 58 written comments were received via email, at the hearing or snail mail): five supported the permit reissuance, 50 were opposed, and three had general questions not indicating a position, she said.

Several people commented that the hearing format – where speakers were given a maximum of five minutes to comment about five different operations – was inappropriate. Jones said the format did meet DNR guidelines and added that written and oral comments were given equal weight.

In response to several comments concerned about water quality, Jones listed several requirements to protect groundwater that are in the permit:

• Manure or process wastewater may not be applied within 100 feet of a direct conduit to groundwater.

• Nutrient shall not be spread within 200 feet upslope of direct conduits to groundwater unless the nutrient is effectively incorporated within 48 hours

• No manure application within 100 feet of direct conduits to groundwater (sinkholes, private wells)

• No causing fecal contamination of water in a well.

• No application on fields with soils that are 60 inches thick or less over fractured bedrock when ground is frozen or where snow is present.

• No application when snow is actively melting.

• No application on areas of fields that have less than 24 inches of soil to bedrock.

• Field verification procedures include ground depth evaluations on fields with mapped shallow soils. A detailed protocol for determining bedrock depth on fields with such soils is outlined in the NMP. All fields must be evaluated before applying manure.

Dairy Dreams recently was sent a Notice of Noncompliance because of permit violations found in an Oct. 20 manure hauling audit. A letter from Jones cited an instance where a field was tiled but the farm did not receive approval before land application of manure; an instance where Dairy Dreams did not maintain a required setback of 25 feet or more to wetlands during application; and an instance where the farm applied manure to soil that had groundwater within 24 inches of the surface.

Jones’ letter said the department asked for and received follow-up information from Dairy Dreams to address the noncompliance issues.

Below is Jones’ response to comments regarding the WPDES permit.