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DE PERE - The Wisconsin Department of Justice has filed and settled a lawsuit against Thompson's Gold Dust Dairy, LLC, Thompson's Holdings, LLC, and their owner/operator James T. Thompson, for violations of state water pollution control laws at the Gold Dust Dairy operation in Brown County.
Gold Dust, a large dairy that generates approximately 16.5 million gallons of manure per year, is classified as a Confined Animal Feeding Operation and is subject to a facility-specific pollution discharge permit. On June 18, 2008, DNR and the Brown County Land Conservation Department observed that one of Gold Dust's two manure pits was close to overtopping. When they looked closer, they saw manure seeping over the top of one pit. Gold Dust's second manure pit was also above its safe operating level, so DNR directed Gold Dust to pump the manure levels down and assisted with finding alternative storage for the manure, as field conditions were not suitable for land application.
The next day, DNR reminded Gold Dust of its responsibilities under its permit, and Gold Dust began pumping down the manure in its pits.
On July 2, 2008, DNR documented five violations. First, one of Gold Dust's manure pits was actively overtopping, and manure was flowing through a ditch to a navigable waterway which tested positive for manure contamination. Second, polluted stormwater was discharging from Gold Dust's feed storage area into a ditch that was connected to the navigable waterway. Gold Dust had been required to install a feed storage runoff control system by June 30, 2007, but has still not constructed a permanent system. Third, Gold Dust was using an unapproved, three-sided concrete bunker to store manure.
It was raining during the inspection, and manure was running off this storage facility. Fourth, the storm water management system on the farm was not working. A manhole between the barns was clogged with waste feed, and there was potential that manure was also flushing into it. Fifth, when DNR asked Gold Dust for the reports documenting its required inspections, no reports were provided. The Complaint charges Gold Dust with these five violations, with failing to take action to prevent overtopping of manure storage facilities, and with an October 2009 incident regarding improper land spreading of manure.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Gold Dust has agreed to pay penalties, costs and assessments totaling $80,000 for the violations. The settlement agreement also requires that Gold Dust complete the required installation of its feed storage area leachate collection and runoff control system this summer. DNR estimates that this system will cost between $50,000 and $65,000.
"It is against the law for farms to discharge manure or process wastewater into Wisconsin's waters," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. "The permitting process is intended to regulate farms in order to prevent discharges from their production area and from fields where manure is spread. The Department of Justice will continue to work with the DNR to ensure compliance with the law and to help prevent future violations."
Assistant Attorney General Diane L. Milligan prosecuted the case. The settlement was approved by Brown County Circuit Court Judge Mark Warpinski.