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Roth Feeder Pigs receives non-compliance order
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A Notice of Non-compliance Order was issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to the Roth Feeder Pig operation in Wauzeka Township in Crawford County on February 3, 2012. According to the order, the Roth operation had failed to submit a completed Annual Report due January 31, 2012.

The order reflects some of the concerns brought to the DNR by Christa Westerberg, a lawyer working on behalf of Crawford Stewardship Project in a letter sent January 17. The CSP, a local environmental group, opposed approving a permit for Roth’s Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in the initial permitting process. It has continued to monitor the situation since the permit was approved and operation expanded. Of particular concern to the group is water quality, both in area groundwater and in the surface water of the nearby Wisconsin River.

When contacted earlier this week, Roth confirmed that the report was late in being filed. However, he indicated the necessary annual report was filed last week.

This is the second time AV Roth has been issued a Notice of Noncompliance Order, the first was in March 2011, after CSP brought a series of concerns to the DNR. The Crawford Stewardship Project also acknowledged that since the February 3 order was issued, Roth has sent documents to the DNR that likely address some of the requirements listed in the order.

Other issues addressed by the DNR in the February order, according to the CSP, include a requirement to submit a complete and up to date Nutrient Management Plan by March 31, 2012 using “updates normally required” as past updates have used “various tools and non-standard forms” and the DNR granted another extension on the old earthen lagoon abandonment plan to June 30, 2012 with actual abandonment completion due date of June 30, 2013.

The Crawford Stewardship Project noted it had reviewed the Roth NMP over the past year. The CSP believes the results have shown significant concerns, which include missing required documentation and inconsistencies. While an NMP update is required annually, one was not submitted in 2010, the CSP stated in a press release last week.

Roth disputed that claim. He contended he had properly electronically filed the 2010 Nutrient Management Plan and it was on file with the DNR. It was impossible to confirm with the DNR this week, whether the 2010 NMP was filed or not.

The CSP noted the 2011 NMP uses different numbering of the fields used for spreading than the 2009 plan, which makes tracking individual field soil health difficult. Additionally, the group contends field maps were not submitted for 2011, nor were all required checklists for NRCS 590 and NR 243 standards submitted each year.

Roth explained that field numbers were sometimes changed by the NRCS, however all but a few numbers had remained the same. In particular, he said field number 41 had become number 39 through this process.

Despite the tracking difficulties CSP claimed it was able to review five of the larger fields. They noted that organic levels have dropped significantly in these fields, phosphorus levels have increased in two of five fields, and potassium levels have dropped. The increased phosphorous levels were of concern to the group because of potential groundwater and surface water pollution that might be caused by them.

For his part, Roth acknowledged phosphorus had risen in some fields, but pointed out the CSP failed to note it had dropped in other fields. He explained that the application of some composted material to fields had resulted in much higher phosphorous levels than he had been led to believe it would. Going forward steps would be taken to reduce the phosphorous levels in those fields, according to Roth.

In the other fields, phosphorous levels dropped significantly, according to Roth. In fact, one was now below the 200 ppm (parts per million), which is a level that causes the operator to seek permission to add manure to the field.

The CSP noted in their press release that the original WPDES (water discharge permit) issued by the DNR on May 1, 2010, required abandonment of the old earthen lagoons used to hold manure at the operation to be completed by December 2011.

“We are highly concerned that each failure to meet requirements results in additional time extensions from the DNR,” said Edie Ehlert, Crawford Stewardship Project Coordinator. “We have requested that the DNR require Mr. Roth to apply for a modified WPDES permit for extensions over 120 days as required by law, so as to include the public in the process.”

Roth explained that he was following the plan he had filed with Crawford County in 2006. He plans to remove all material and the first six inches of soil as the lagoons are abandoned. The lagoons serve two older buildings that Roth also intends to remove. One still contains gilts, but he intends to have them removed from the building in three weeks.

The buildings and the old earthen lagoons that service them were used to raise and then breed gilts, which will ultimately become the sows in the feeder pig operation. Roth said there had been some consideration of a plan to buy large gilts and eliminate raising them at the farm, but he decided against it because of the breeding results achieved by raising the gilts and breeding them to boars. Brood sows on the farm are bred by artificial insemination.

The recently completed buildings on the farm will replace the two oldest buildings in the operation, according to Roth.

“We see a large new building being built onsite to replace old, smaller buildings, and we wonder if an expansion is being planned,” neighbor Fred Hausler was quoted as saying the CSP news release.

The CSP noted that the Roth Feeder Pig Operation has about .15 acres (15 hundredths of an acre) per animal unit of land to spread manure, while conservative industry standards call for a minimum of one acre per animal unit. During the original Roth permit process, citizens expressed concerns summarized by Dr. Byron Shaw, Emeritus Professor of Soil and Water Resources at UW-Stevens Point, according to the CSP.

“The overall level of nutrient management, high density of animals to the land area, steep slopes, already overloaded soils with phosphorus, proximity to protected surface water resources, proximity to vulnerable groundwater and unrealistically low manure values all make it highly likely that significant water resource problems will occur if this facility is permitted as proposed,” Shaw wrote in his report at the time.

However, Roth points out that the animal unit number is misleading because every weanling feeder pig in the operation is considered a .1 animal unit, even though Roth’s weanlings weigh only two-and-a-half pounds at birth to twelve-and-a-half pounds when they are finished and ready for sale. However, .1 animal unit includes animals up to 100 pounds.

A 100-pound animal produces a lot more manure than a 12-pound animal, Roth points out. That’s why in his opinion compiling the animal unit numbers and dividing them by the acreage is misleading.

 “Why does it take legal review and letters of concern from Crawford Stewardship Project to bring review and action from the DNR?” CSP board member Ellen Brooks asked in the group’s press release.

The DNR administration of Roth’s operation including the review of the nutrient management plan is in the process of being changed from Bob Rohland in Black River Falls to Mike Gilbertson in the Dodgeville DNR office. Gilbertson was not ready to comment on the situation earlier this week as he is still reviewing the files on the permit and operation. Rohland could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, area citizens continue to monitor the water quality around the CAFO, concerned that little monitoring from the DNR and field health issues bring greater concern for water quality deterioration over time, according to the Crawford County Stewardship Project’s news release.