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Manure Spraying from Factory Farms under Scrutiny

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range Page and our Wisconsin News Page.

Scott Murray did not want to leave the home in rural Juneau County where he and his family had lived for more than 20 years. But with the house surrounded on three sides by manure irrigation systems, life had become a nightmare.

"It even got into the walls of our home," Murray said of the liquid manure spray that drifted onto his property from the Central Sands Dairy across the road. "It was an ammonia smell. It hurt so bad even to breathe."

In 2011, the Murrays sold their house and moved.

The buyer?

Central Sands Dairy.

"And it's a good thing," Murray said, "because my property wasn't worth a nickel."

Life for the Murrays, along with other Wisconsin families, has been disrupted by the relatively rare practice in Wisconsin of using water irrigation systems to spray liquid manure on farm fields.

Now the issue has taken on new urgency as more large dairy farms consider using the practice. A work group formed by the state Department of Natural Resources and run by the University of Wisconsin-Extension is completing a study and beginning to weigh whether to toughen regulation of manure irrigation. Its initial report is due out by fall. The practice is regulated under current law with restrictions on spraying too close to homes and wells.

Some research suggests that the plethora of chemicals and pathogens found in liquid manure can have serious health impacts, ranging from respiratory disease to potentially lethal antibiotic resistant infections. Opponents fear wider use of manure irrigation will increase the risk of human illness and drinking water contamination.

Critics also question the ability of the DNR, relying mostly on citizen complaints and self-reporting by the huge dairies, to adequately regulate a practice that has already been shown to pollute waters and drive people from their homes.

Such concerns have prompted officials in Wisconsin's Adams County to pass a moratorium against the practice.

It is also an issue elsewhere in the country.    


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