The Department of Natural Resources has renewed the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit for Kinnard Farms in the town of Lincoln. The new permit is effective Feb. 1, 2018, through Jan. 31, 2023.

The permit application was one of five that were subject to a public hearing Nov. 28. The reinsurance was announced Jan. 28 by Casey Jones, DNR agricultural runoff specialist.

Kinnard is one of the largest dairy operations in Kewaunee County with more than 10,000 animal units and authorization under the permit to expand to 12,860 animal units by 2023. An animal unit is equivalent to 1,000 pounds.

As approved the permit is essentially the same as the draft presented at the public hearing. Jones responded in writing to a number of the oral and written comments, which she said were given equal weight.

Among her responses Jones acknowledged a number of comments concerning groundwater and well contamination issues in northern Kewaunee County but said that existing environmental issues in the area cannot be used to deny WPDES permit.

“WPDES permit conditions are intended to protect private wells and groundwater from becoming impacted from land spreading activities and the production site,” Jones wrote. “If a private well becomes contaminated with manure or process wastewater, the DNR should be contacted immediately to investigate the source of contamination. Once the source of contamination is known the DNR will determine the appropriate enforcement response which may include referral to the Department of Justice. The DNR can provide technical assistance for well treatment or replacement options if a well is impacted by contamination. The DNR recommends homeowners sample their well water on an annual sampling for nitrate and bacteria.”

Several commenters asked the DNR to set limits on the expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). On that subject Jones said:

The DNR does not claim that CAFO WPDES permits are “zero risk” permits and the DNR acknowledges that there have been impacts associated with CAFOs, some of those impacts have been significant. However, the DNR believes that the WPDES permit program has been an effective means to address these impacts and avoid impacts from occurring in the future. As with any license or permit that is issued, there is always the potential for environmental impacts associated with permit noncompliance or situations not easily or explicitly addressed by prescriptive permit requirements.

Not all requests were for increased limits; the DNR also left in place an hourly monitoring requirement for the Depth to Groundwater, Groundwater Elevation, and Temperature Indicator Parameters for the first 12 months of the permit term at two Kinnard wells.

“This monitoring provision is burdensome, costly, and at the same time, unlikely to produce data more enlightening than a less frequent monitoring schedule,” Jones quoted from a request to remove the requirement.

“Due to the unique geology of the area, the department is leaving the hourly requirement in the permit,” Jones said.