As you may have followed, I have not been enthralled with the newspaper reporting of the status of our wells in Kewaunee County. For example, we have read over and over “30% of the wells in Kewaunee County are contaminated.” That is simply not true, and that myth needs to be corrected. If 30% of the wells in our county were contaminated, we’d have a whopping 1,440 wells contaminated, when in fact, we have so far validated that 180 wells are contaminated and that translates to 3.79% of our county wells in the county with known contamination at this time. Bit of a difference, isn’t it? One would only hope that some of this data might be published.
I will also reiterate, I continue to believe we have a serious problem with both the surface and groundwater in the county and, I also will work with whomever to solve the problem. This will not happen overnight though. Although our goal should be to have 100% of our wells clean, I believe I can safely say, that no matter what this county does to correct the problem it will never achieve a 100% record. Why? Because there are too many sources of contaminates that can cause a well to go bad.
In the following tables I have taken the cumulative percent of unsafe wells voluntarily tested by township for the period 2004 -2014. This data has been amassed by Davina Bonness who is the Department Head of our Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation group. That information in the following tables is highlighted in blue.
Unfortunately, we do not have an accurate breakdown of the number or wells by each township. We do however, have the rural address points, and by taking the number of rural address points and dividing it into the total number of wells in the county, we can closely estimate the number of wells in each township. It is not perfect, but very close. The reason it is not perfect is, some addresses have more than one operational well. This data is highlighted in yellow on the tables.
When reviewing the data from this perspective, it reveals about 3.79% of the counties wells tested were found to be contaminated. This considers that we only have data on 13.05% of all county wells that have been tested. It also clearly highlights that the vast majority of the problems are in the townships of Red River, Lincoln, Casco and Luxemburg where we have the Karst featured land. These four townships represent 42.4% of the counties wells and 71.1% of the contaminated wells.
I happen to believe Agriculture can continue to grow and flourish in Kewaunee Co. but at the same time they will have to play a major role in contributing towards cleaning up our water problem. This will take investment by all farms in the county because as I recall, all cows poo and pee, not just cows on the CAFOs. Last December I presented a plan to the board on manure processing and how, with manure processing we could effectively reduce the amount of manure going to the fields by 70%. Since that meeting I have been closely watching the advances being made in the manure treatment field.
As you may recall, a company called Digested Organics was at that board meeting and answered some questions as to how their IMMS technology/system worked. I had reviewed a number of systems and found them to have a fully integrated and modular manure treatment system that harvests energy and generates biogas, concentrates and captures nutrients for crops and reclaims clean water for farm use.
Their first commercial installation of this system is being commissioned this month at Majestic Meadows dairy in Sheboygan Falls. I have been keeping a very close eye on the results, and am extremely encouraged by what I am seeing so far. It appears the performance metrics they were projecting are going to be achievable. Simply stated, they are removing about 65% of the water from the manure and turning it into potable water for the cows to drink. What does this mean? A 2,000 cow dairy today produces about 9.8 M gallons of liquid manure when you consider the parlor water into that number. By removing 65% of the water, 6.4 million gallons of that manure would be removed as reusable water for the animals or farm and would not have to go out on our roads in manure trucks or on the fields. The remaining 35% would contain more concentrated amount of nutrients that is both separated and captured for more targeted delivery to the fields.
Another benefit is that all that water doesn’t have to be stored, therefore freeing up space in pits which would eliminate the emergency spreading situations we seem to find ourselves in almost every year. Digested Organics is just one of the companies building and developing manure treatment facilities in Wisconsin. This technology is both commercially available and at our doorstep and it won’t be long before our farmers start having them constructed in Kewaunee. As I have said before, we need a proactive strategy that incorporates these kinds of treatment technologies to help improve our ground & surface water while continuing to support the important dairy industry and the hundreds of jobs that it employs.
I will continue to keep you apprised of developments as we advance our overall County strategy.