DNR investigating manure spill in Marathon County

    A cow. Courtesy of Pixabay)
    A cow. (Photo by Pixabay)

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is currently responding to a manure spill in Marathon County. The DNR is working with the Marathon County Land and Water Conservation District to assess the full impact of the spill.

    First reported to the DNR on October 7, the spill near Huckleberry Road in northeast Colby has since spread overland to Elm Creek. A press release on Oct. 10 stated that property owner, Keith Rahm, had stopped the spill and a clean-up is underway. Samples are being collected, but the results are still pending.

    “At this time we know that a stretch of Elm Creek just east of the city of Colby received manure as a result of an overtopped manure storage pit,” Matthew Thompson of the DNR’s office of communications, told Wisconsin Examiner. “The department is working with Marathon County to investigate the quantity of manure spilled. The department has not received reports of impacted residents at this time.”

    As an agricultural state, Wisconsin is no stranger to manure spills. In 2017, manure spilled from a 950-cow dairy farm in northeastern Wisconsin. The spill made its way into creeks that feed into the Fox River. At least 20,000 gallons of animal waste escaped into waterways. A separate spill in Vernon County killed more than 1,300 fish after entering a trout stream and tributary feeding into the Kickapoo River. Another spill a year earlier in Castle Rock Creek in Grant County flowed two miles into a popular fishing area. Some 50 trout were found dead, floating on the water’s surface, although the full extent of the fish kill wasn’t determined. Years earlier in 2013, over 300,000 gallons of waste were released within just a mile of Six Mile Creek in Waunakee.

    The Wisconsin DNR maintains a page where spills can be reported by residents. “Preventing spill is possible,” the page reads encouragingly. “Improperly spread manure may carry into lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Rain or melting snow increases this risk.” The Department of Justice sometimes prosecutes violations that lead to manure spills. It’s unclear if the recent Marathon County spill would qualify as a violation. 

    Protecting Wisconsin’s waterways from pollution and contamination has become a main objective for Gov. Tony Evers. His predecessor, Gov. Scott Walker, attempted to enact a $15 million program to convert manure into fuel. The plan became notorious for numerous delays.

    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.

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