LA FARGE - It didn’t seem possible the morning of Thursday, May 16 when the news of another manure spill from the Wild Rose Dairy started to bubble up on social media. However, the sight that greeted my eyes upon arrival on the scene, of DNR Fisheries Biologist Kirk Olson with a bucket of dead trout, confirmed that it had indeed happened again.
The most recent incident occurred only 19 months after the October 2017 spill that put an estimated 30,000 gallons of manure into the Otter Creek Watershed in rural LaFarge, and left 1,300 trout dead. The dairy did not report that incident until 24 hours after the spill.Although the DNR released their final report on that incident and turned it over to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) on November 14, 2017, the DOJ still has taken no enforcement action regarding the incident. Further, the dairy’s Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (WPDES) has been expired since 2015.
This time, an estimated 10,000 gallons of manure spilled out of a split hose. An alarm system in the tractor alerted the manure application operator that there was a leak, and pumping was shut off. The dairy notified the DNR of the spill at the spill hotline within 10 minutes of the incident, according to DNR Spill Coordinator Patrick Collins. Dairy staff immediately began operations to prevent the manure from reaching the creek. Preliminary reports indicate that the spill killed at least 400 fish.
“Because of the large rainfall that fell overnight on Wednesday, May 15 in to Thursday, May 16, the stream was muddy and our team was having difficulty seeing the fish,” Collins said. “The team has gone out several times, and we will have a final count soon.”
Miles of hoses
Both times, Wild Rose Dairy had contracted with K&D Manure Handling of Sparta. In the October 2017 incident, the manure spilled as a result of the failure of a hose coupling. The manure travelled down a dry wash running along Kirking Road, which intersects County D just above where Otter Creek begins to run above ground. This time, the manure was being pumped through large black hoses called “drag lines” for five miles or more in an area further south on the ridge.The hoses began up on Buckeye Ridge where the dairy’s manure storage facility is located; travelled south along the top through their contour-stripped fields to a draw, which runs west down into the Otter Creek Valley, and enters the valley near Allen Lane.
The hose then continues south along the east bank of the creek to an area where there was a pump on a trailer used to push the manure in the hose along the creek bottom and then up to ridge top fields on the west side of the creek. Just in front of the pumping unit is the area where a dam was constructed to attempt to prevent the manure from entering the creek.
From where the pump is located, the hose continues further south along the east side of the creek before being lain in the creek to cross it.
From there, the hose was run a short distance uphill to a concrete spillway under County Highway D where a spring fed tributary travelled to the creek.
After exiting from the spillway, the hose then continued to run uphill on a grassed field road to fields on the top of the ridge where it would be applied.
According to Vernon Reporter Tim Hundt, one of the co-owners of the dairy, Attorney David Abt, indicated that the dairy will likely make changes in how their manure is transported to the field for spreading.
“We’re no longer going to use the same kind of system to transport our manure,” Abt told Hundt. “It is just not worth the risk to run those hoses near the stream.”
Abt also told Hundt, that if the DNR approves, the dairy would like to re-stock Otter Creek with trout.
According to DNR Conservation Warden for Vernon County Shawna Stringham, the hose that failed was a “healthy hose” that was less than two years old.
“No one knows why the hose split,” Stringham said. “And no one is more upset about the spill than the owners of the dairy.”
DNR Spill Enforcement Coordinator Patrick Collins, who is overseeing the spill recovery and investigation process, was aware that this was the second spill in less than two years.