A Kewaunee County Board supervisor is asking the state Department of Natural Resources for a public hearing on a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit about to be issued for a Rio Creek area dairy operation.
The permit for El-Na Farms LLC would be effective from June 1 through May 31, 2022, and would replace the permit El-Na is currently operating under.
El-Na Farms is a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) that currently has about 1,350 milking and dry cows, 850 heifers, and 500 calves equaling 2,675 animal units, according to a fact sheet prepared by DNR staff. During the five-year course of the new permit, the farm plans to expand through internal growth to about 5,970 animal units.
Based on the current animal numbers, the farm generates about 16.5 million gallons of manure and process wastewater and 5,000 tons of solid manure annually. El-Na Farms plans to build additional solid and liquid manure storage over the term of the permit.
The discharge permit affects an unnamed tributary to Rio Creek within the Ahnapee River and Lake Michigan watersheds, the permit indicates.
The department is required to hold a hearing if it receives a petition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or from five or more people, or if the agency determines there is sufficient public interest.
“My interest is to understand how an area encompassing Northwest Kewaunee and potentially Southwest Door Counties – an area that has some of the most vulnerable geology in Wisconsin – can accommodate still further herd count increases,” Supervisor Lee Luft said Thursday in an email to Brad Holtz, the DNR staff member who drafted the permit.
Luft cited DNR approval in recent years of significant expansions to Kinnard Farms and S&S Dairy in northern Kewaunee and southern Door counties.
“ I want to understand what studies the DNR has undertaken to determine how this massive increase in waste application will impact groundwater and surface water conditions in Kewaunee County for our residents and to be certain these studies have been completed before these new expansions take place,” he said.