Kewaunee County liquid manure ordinance passed to mitigate groundwater contamination

KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) - An ordinance aimed at reducing groundwater contamination in Kewaunee County was passed by county leaders this week. As Local 5's Kris Schuller tells us Kewaunee County is the first county in the state to regulate the application of liquid manure through irrigation.

In farm-filled Kewaunee County groundwater quality has long been an issue, as fractured bedrock allows surface contaminates - like manure – to sometimes enter the water table.

“The groundwater situation is something we all talk about regularly,” said Bob Weidner, chair of the Kewaunee County Board.

Now farmers have a new option for spreading manure -  a management tool to lessen the amount of fertilizer put down on farm fields year-round.

“We want an improvement of groundwater and this is a partial solution to mitigate,” said Weidner. 

In this county where some 300 dairy farms milk 27,000 cows - dealing with manure is a priority. Thanks to a newly passed ordinance - farmers can now apply that manure to their fields through a low-pressure drip irrigation system.

“By doing this we're hoping that we'll have less manure going out in the vulnerable times of the year and when the crop is actually on the ground -  taking up those nutrients,” said Navina Bonness, head of the Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Dept.

Bonness says currently manure is generally spread in large amounts in the spring and fall, the times of the year when the county sees an uptick in reports of well contamination.

“We're trying to get that applied in smaller amounts and more often. That seriously reduces the likelihood it can travel into the groundwater,” Weidner said.

While the irrigation systems require an investment, Weidner says the farming community had input and backs the final product.

“Very impressive to see how groups can come together if they all have a common goal, and they do,” said Weidner.

A goal to manage manure and lessen the impact on the environment.

Kewaunee County dairy farms generate $65 million each year.

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