Update: Marathon County manure spill released 40,000 gallons of liquid waste into creek

    Holstein cows in a barn at the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station's north campus near Stratford, Wis., Wednesday afternoon, July 11, 2018. Photo by Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS
    Holstein cows in a barn at the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station's north campus near Stratford, Wis., Wednesday afternoon, July 11, 2018. Photo by Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is continuing to address a manure spill in Marathon County, which occurred in early October. The agency monitored clean up, and is tracking areas the waste may have contaminated.

    The spill occurred near the city of Colby, in a popular region for Wisconsin’s dairy industry. “The Department jointly coordinated the clean-up with the Marathon County Land Conservation Department,” said Terence Kafka, nonpoint source program regional coordinator with the DNR. Clean-up operations were conducted and completed on October 9, two days after the spill was reported. 

    “Pounded liquid manure located at the field edge was incorporated into the soil by a contractor utilizing a back-blade method with a bulldozer,” Kafka told Wisconsin Examiner. “The responsible part provided an estimate of 40,000 gallons of liquid manure [which] overflowed the manure storage facility.” Further work to confirm how much manure was released is being conducted by the DNR.

    Manure spread overland and flowed into Elm Creek, which is in close proximity to other waterways. “While lower levels of dissolved oxygen were recorded within segments of Elm Creek downstream of the discharge,” explained Kafka, “no fish kill was documented between the point of discharge and Elm Creek confluence with Dill Creek 3-4 miles downstream.”

    Other Wisconsin creeks and rivers affected by manure spills in the past haven’t been so lucky. In 2017, a spill released 20,000 gallons of animal waste into the Fox River. Another Vernon County spill flowed into a tributary and, once it reached the Kickapoo River, killed more than 1,300 fish. Those spills, and this more recent one, pale in comparison to a spill in 2013, which released 300,000 gallons of waste into a small section of Six Mile Creek in Waunakee.

    “A notice of violation letter was sent to the responsible party,” said Kafka, “followed by an enforcement conference to discuss the manure discharge.” The enforcement portion of the case is ongoing, and the DNR is currently seeking more information to assist in its evaluation of the incident. 

    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.