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MADISON - A Grant County civil environmental enforcement action aimed at preventing the continued intermittent discharge of manure and feed waste from Richard and Judie Bellmeyer's beef feedlot into a tributary of the Rountree Branch, a Class 2 trout stream, has been resolved, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today.
Since at least 1985, the Bellmeyer feedlot has been responsible for significant manure and feed waste discharges to the stream. The State's complaint alleged that the pastures and feed areas on the Bellmeyer farm lacked adequate vegetation, that the animals often stand in several inches of manure, that manure has been stockpiled in a drainage way, and rain has sent it through channels, through a culvert, and ultimately to the stream.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Grant County staff began working with Mr. Bellmeyer in 1985-86, but little progress was made. He was offered technical assistance and cost-sharing money in 1995, but he did nothing. In 2005, DNR directed Bellmeyer to apply for a discharge permit, but he did not return the application. Uncontrolled discharges of manure and other process wastewater to the stream were documented in 2008 and 2009, and formed the basis for the State's lawsuit.
After the lawsuit was filed, the Attorney General's office worked with DNR and the Bellmeyers to address the acute risks posed by the farm operation. Bellmeyers improved their manure management practices, closed the feedlot closest to the stream, stabilized the pasture so it could re-vegetate, and progressively reduced their herd. Bellmeyers chose to depopulate their herd instead of obtaining a discharge permit, and agreed to either obtain a permit or obtain DNR approval of an agricultural runoff control plan designed to prevent discharges of animal waste and feed waste before housing livestock in the future. In addition, Bellmeyers agreed to pay forfeitures, costs, and fees totaling $20,000.
Manure, waste feed and eroded soil degrade the aquatic environment in significant ways, and animal waste runoff poses serious health risks to citizens who recreate and otherwise utilize those resources in lawful ways. "The State of Wisconsin is committed to working with farmers in providing the assistance necessary to address runoff challenges, but is also prepared to take strong enforcement action when the situation calls for it. The Department of Justice will continue to work with the Department of Natural Resources to enforce violations of Wisconsin's animal waste management laws," Attorney General Van Hollen said.
The violations were investigated by the DNR, which referred the matter to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Assistant Attorney General Diane Milligan represented the State. The settlement agreement was approved by Grant County Circuit Court Judge Craig R. Day.