Deer in landfill? Wait and see, panel decides

May 10, 2002 Capital Times (Madison, WI) by Bill Novak
While the commission in charge of the Dane County landfill isn't ruling out burying thousands of deer carcasses at the landfill site, it wants to take a "wait and see" approach to the idea, and will most likely abide by any carcass disposal plans put together between the Department of Natural Resources and a chronic wasting disease task force being set up by county officials.

The county's Solid Waste and Recycling Commission rejected a motion to ban burying 15,000 deer, the estimated total number living in the DNR's eradication zone in western Dane County, eastern Iowa County and a small section of Sauk County.

While the Dane County landfill remains one option for the disposal of the deer carcasses when the eradication kill begins, the DNR lost one option of disposal when the Sauk County Board's Environmental Resources Committee voted unanimously Thursday to not accept deer carcasses from Dane County.

"No way in hell do we want 750 tons or so of deer in our landfill," said Supervisor John Schmitz, chairman of the committee. "We'll probably take in the ones shot in Sauk County, but the deer shot in Dane County is just too many animals." The Dane County Towns Association also doesn't want to see thousands of deer carcasses in the county landfill.

Harold Krantz, town chair of Cross Plains and a member of the solid waste commission, said the association voted unanimously Wednesday night to advise the county not to use the landfill as a disposal site.

Dumping the carcasses into a landfill is the easiest and quickest way to dispose of the animals, but it might not be the safest, which has county officials concerned.

The main concern is the long-range affect of CWD-laced deer remains possibly leaching out into the groundwater.

The county executive's chief of staff, Topf Wells, said key administrators most directly involved in the CWD crisis are forming plans on how to deal with CWD, but it might take some time before any action takes place.

"We are not in a situation where hundreds of dead deer would be brought to the landfill at one time," Wells said. "From what we know from the DNR, the shooting is going to take longer than expected. It took the DNR, during an easier time of the year to shoot, four weeks to shoot 500 deer."

Much of the coordination between the county's efforts and the DNR will be handled by the CWD task force. The County Board's Executive Committee voted unanimously to set up the task force Thursday, and the idea will be brought before the full board next Thursday.

The makeup of the task force was changed slightly by the commission, with the addition of two citizen members. The 11-member task force will consist of six supervisors, the county executive or a representative, the Dane County Conservation League president or designee, a farmer recommended by the Farm Bureau and the two citizen members.

If the task force and DNR decide dumping the deer carcasses in the Dane County landfill is the best way to dispose of the kill, the landfill will be able to take all of the deer killed, the landfill's manager told the commission.

Gerald Mandli said the landfill takes in an average of 400 tons of refuse a day, so dumping 1,000 tons or so of deer carcasses will be easily handled.

Commissioners were somewhat concerned about being able to keep track of where the deer carcasses are in the landfill, but Mandli said the location will be marked through a site survey, so landfill operators will know where the remains are years from now.

Once the killing starts, carcasses would be brought to the landfill in an erratic fashion, depending on how many deer are killed on a given day. Usually, refuse is put into the landfill in different places, but Mandli assured the commission the deer carcasses would be dumped into one spot.

He also said none of the seven full-time workers at the landfill has expressed concerns over handling thousands of deer carcasses.

"None of the carcasses would have human contact," Mandli said. "The carcasses would be dumped into a trench, covered and rolled with a compactor that weighs 120,000 pounds."

The landfill will easily handle 15,000 deer carcasses, but the idea of eradicating 15,000 deer from the zone is a harder thing to handle, Wells said.

"The overwhelmingly vast majority of the deer to be taken are healthy," he said, "and that's the biggest tragedy. Out of 1,000 deer, 990 will be healthy."

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