Jun 14, 2014

Central Wisconsin Residents Stand Up for Communites Against Factory Farms

Increasing opposition to proposed
massive CAFO in Wood County
in Wisconsin - Photo by
Mary Captain-Braund
Saratoga, Wisconsin--Citizens mobilize to stop proposed massive factory diary operation in central Wisconsin from diluting and poisoning water, air and land

"[Saratoga, Wisconsin] Town Board members and residents are taking steps to ensure the future of water in the community."

Brian Hamm and Rob Borski have been monitoring the water in the 10 Mile and Seven Mile creeks since the two men attended a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources citizen-based stream monitoring seminar in Wisconsin Rapids during spring 2013. The men have monitored 10 different sites on the two creeks for the past nine months, Hamm said," reports Karen Madden in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Gannett Co).

Residents from Saratoga, Nekoosa and Wisconsin Rapids (Wood County), Rome (Adams County)—Lake Arrowhead, Lake Camelot and Lake Sherwood (Adams County)—and the surrounding counties of Juneau and Portage have one mission: Protect the water from the predictable toxic effects from the proposed massive Wysocki Golden Sands concentrated agricultural feeding operation (CAFO) and its proposed 49 high-capacity water wells that would poison and drain area waterways and groundwater.

The Wysocki Family of Cos. announced the company had completed its environmental impact report of its proposed CAFO, but residents of Saratoga are going to do their own study, hiring a hydrologist to determine what is happening now, and what would be the effects of the Wysocki Golden Sands Dairy CAFO.

Reports the Tribune's Madden:

"'We’re going to get a study done on what takes place with all this water,' said Terry Rickaby, Saratoga (Town) chairman.

"The Town Board approved spending $6,274 on the study. The hydrologist the town hired will work with Protect Wood County and its Neighbors to do the study."

The people encountered here are salt of the earth, but take on a hard edge when someone proposes setting up operations with the consequence of poisoning their children.


This is an election year. And elected officials have to face the people.

"After many discussions with the citizens of this district, it is apparent that there are two particular issues that are of utmost importance to a great many of them; those of the issues of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation farms and groundwater maintenance and quality," said Dana W. Duncan (Port Edwards), a Democratic Party candidate for the 72nd Assembly District, challenging state rep. Scott Krug (R-Wisconsin Rapids), a member of the rightwing, corporatist ALEC.

Krug said he is in favor of the proposed CAFO in Saratoga, saying on March 7, 2013 that he believes we need to be willing to "take chances" (with our environment), and that industry uses water, treats it well, and returns it to the system.

Krug said the proposed Saratoga CAFO could be held accountable if surrounding groundwater wells and waterways are adversely affected.

Residents and Duncan are not waiting for disaster, preferring to avoid it.

Retorts the pro-environment Duncan in a June press release:
I believe that water is one of our most precious resources, is the oil of the 21st Century, and is one of the primary assets of Wisconsin. Clean and abundant water is a necessity for any community and we have, for too long, neglected to appreciate what a rich commodity we have here in Wisconsin. However, over the past several years, the issues of groundwater maintenance and quality have come under threat from the expansion of CAFO farming, and it has made us all sit up and take notice. For many in communities across this district, they have taken up the mantle of protecting our water and our environment against these factory farms.

As such, I want to affirm my position, to stand with those already in this fight, and support opposition to any and all CAFO farming. Moreover, I want to actively work with the citizens of this district to ensure not only a sustainable quantity of water, but also an enduring quality for generations to come. These factory farms are a short-term approach with long term damages. In the name of creating only a few jobs now, we would be sacrificing our job potential for years to come. The damage to our environment and potential tourism industry would be evident.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party-connected law firm, Michael Best and Friendrich LLP—and attorney to what local residents derisively call "Big Ag"—are advising CAFOs around the state how to evade the Environmental Projection Agency (EPA) when inspectors come under authority of the Clean Water Act to assure the safety of water for local residents.

To CAFOs, families and any governmental force working to ensure safe and clean water are the enemy. Have a look:
By Michael Best and Friedrich LLP

EPA is Actively Inspecting Dairy Operations in NE Wisconsin!
Understand Your Rights When the EPA Visits Your Farm

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently warned Wisconsin is increasing inspections of Wisconsin dairy and livestock producers under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, "we are going to knock on your door and you aren't going to know we are coming."

These on-site inspections are apparently the next phase of an overall plan to step up investigations and potential enforcement of the Clean Water Act against dairy operations. Not all sites EPA are inspecting are CAFO operations, so no matter what size your dairy operation is, you should be concerned.

EPA publishes for public comment the agency's proposed National Enforcement Initiatives every two years. For fiscal year 2011-2013, addressing discharges to navigable surface waters from the nation's CAFOs was among the six National Enforcement Initiatives pursued by EPA. Recently, EPA requested public comments on its proposed list of National Enforcement Initiatives for the 2014-2016 fiscal years and again investigation and enforcement against livestock operations made EPA's "shortlist." In recent years, EPA's investigation efforts have included "fly-overs" and mandatory demands for the production of records and information.

As background, the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations require certain livestock operations to obtain permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Although the regulations can be complex, generally speaking, whether a farm needs an NPDES permit will depend upon the type of livestock kept, the size of the herd, and the likelihood that manure or waste water will reach surface water. Additionally, individual states- Wisconsin is one example-may have more restrictive permitting requirements.

The Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA to conduct inspections to ensure compliance. This authority includes entering land to determine whether farms should be designated as CAFOs that are required to obtain NPDES permits and to ensure that CAFOs with permits are complying with the terms of the permits. However, EPA farm inspectors are also instructed by official policy" to evaluate whether the requirements of any other federal environmental laws are applicable to the facility and, if so, whether the facility is in compliance with such requirements."

The Clean Water Act provides for penalties ranging from civil orders requiring corrective measures to fines exceeding$37,500 per day of noncompliance. In extreme cases, penalties can include criminal prosecution and jail time.

With stakes this high, it is important that every farmer understands their rights.

Although exceptions exist, administrative agencies, including the EPA, gain access to private property in one of two ways: (1) by getting the consent of the business; or (2) by going to a magistrate judge and obtaining an administrative search warrant.

The EPA will typically first try to gain access the easy way, by getting a farmer to consent to EPA's inspection. If denied voluntary consent, the EPA may then decide to go to court and attempt to obtain an administrative search warrant. As a word of caution, a government inspector does not need the consent of the owner of private property in order to enter, but can obtain consent from any person that the inspector "reasonably believes" is authorized to provide consent to enter. In the case of EPA inspections, inspectors are directed to first ask for the owner of the premises, and if the owner is unavailable, EPA inspectors are directed to make a "good faith effort" to determine who is "in charge" at the time of the inspection. Accordingly, farms must make sure that their workers are properly trained on how to respond to the EPA's (or any government agency's) request to inspect the operation.

If EPA inspectors appear at your farm, you should immediately contact your lawyer before answering any questions or allowing the inspectors onto the nonpublic areas of your property.

Unless the inspectors have a warrant you have the right to refuse the inspection and ask the inspectors to leave. The inspectors will then have two options, either negotiate a convenient time to conduct the search with you (and ideally your lawyer)or turn to the courts to attempt to obtain a search warrant. In all likelihood, denying consent will only delay the search. Nevertheless, you should not allow the inspection to go forward until you have had an opportunity to consult with your lawyer regarding your rights and obligations. You should also not consent to a search at a time when you are likely to be distracted by the day-to-day operations of your farm, where there maybe safety or biosecurity concerns present or where you cannot otherwise devote undivided attention to the inspection. You may need time, for example, to be prepared to take photographs or split samples.

You can withdraw your consent to inspection at any time. Even if you initially grant consent to an inspection, you can change your mind and ask the inspectors to leave. The inspectors then have the same two options: negotiate a convenient time to resume the search or go to court to obtain a search warrant.

You can refuse consent to inspect certain areas of your property. The inspection, whether by consent or under a search warrant, should be focused only on those areas necessary for the EPA to determine compliance with the Clean Water Act. Even under a search warrant, an agency cannot conduct a "wall-to-wall" search, but must search only those areas specified by the warrant. However, if you consent to the search of an area where no animals or feed are located, you have little recourse if the EPA gathers evidence against you for alleged violations of other unrelated environmental laws. You may have the right to "quash" a search warrant. If inspectors appear with a search warrant, you have less ability to deny entry unto your property. However, you should immediately contact your lawyer to determine whether you have a basis to "quash" (or have the court throw out) the warrant. For example, if you can demonstrate that you maintain less than the threshold animals at your farm, your farm will typically not be subject to the Clean Water Act permitting regulations. Other defenses can be asserted as well to challenge a warrant. Under those circumstances, you may be able to convince a court to quash an administrative warrant and stop the EPA's inspection in its entirety.

When dealing with EPA inspectors, understand your rights and take great care to preserve them.

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