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6/29/2018: A First Step in Battling the Manure Pollution Crisis

A First Step in Battling the Manure Pollution Crisis
Revised rules on manure runoff management go into effect July 1

MADISON – The Department of Natural Resources announced this week that revised standards for manure pollution management will take effect on July 1 – a small but crucial step toward easing the pollution crisis that has led to brown, manure-laden water streaming from faucets in northeast Wisconsin.

The revised standards – called NR151 – will strengthen protections for wells and drinking water by increasing manure spreading setbacks and prohibiting manure spreading on shallow soils and snow covered fields, among other revisions.

Conservation voters across Wisconsin took action to ensure the rules were approved. They sent more 4,500 messages and petition signatures to the DNR board and legislators, attended hearings, and made phone calls.

Unfortunately, the DNR did not apply the new rules to parts of the state beyond fifteen counties on the far eastern side of the state. This leaves areas like southwest Wisconsin vulnerable to a similar crisis.

The years of work and effort by environmental groups, citizens, and the DNR is laudable. It should reduce the threat of bacterial poisoning of wells and drinking water. However, the DNR must commit to water monitoring and increased enforcement against polluters to defend Wisconsin’s drinking water adequately.

Government Affairs Director Jennifer Giegerich had this to say about the implementation:

“These revised rules represent a step in the right direction. However, they are a starting point, not a finish line. Clean, safe drinking water is our most fundamental resource. It is unacceptable for any polluter to threaten the health and livelihood of Wisconsin families. As large industrial-scale farms proliferate and grow ever more massive, the level of pollution management and accountability must rise to meet them. While faucets still run brown in places like Kewaunee County, these rules show that progress is possible. Now, it is time to address the manure pollution crisis in the entire state and fight for clean water for every Wisconsinite.”

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Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to electing conservation leaders, holding decision makers accountable, and encouraging lawmakers to champion conservation policies that effectively protect Wisconsin’s public health and natural resources.