Citizen group decries DNR decision to double dairy size

Neighbors say polluting past and their concerns were ignored in approving application.




2 minute read

Manure in a wetland at Emerald Sky Dairy in March 2017. (Wisconsin DNR photo)

A group of concerned community members who live near Emerald Sky Dairy are criticizing the DNR’s decision to allow the troubled facility to expand. As reported last week on St. Croix 360, the state recently announced it was approving an application to more than double the number of cows at the operation — and the amount of manure produced.

Several dozen citizens commented during a public input period last summer. In addition, 145 people signed a petition calling for stricter regulation of the pollution-plagued operation. “Emerald Clean Water For All” says those concerns have not been addressed.

“Promises given 25 years ago that this industrial dairy would not negatively impact our neighborhood have not been kept,” said Kim Dupre, former Emerald resident. “Government made this decision, not residents, to site this facility in the midst of a rural residential neighborhood. Thus, Government should own their decision and fix it.”

Between 2016 and 2019, the DNR recorded five violations of Emerald Sky’s previous permit. That includes a massive manure spill into a wetland near the farm site, which went undetected for months, and an incident when manure applied to fields rapidly ran off into nearby Hutton Creek, a designated trout stream, where it was documented to have killed fish.

Meanwhile, the amount of nitrate in neighborhood wells has spiked. Often caused by nitrogen in manure soaking into aquifers, excess nitrate is a health hazard linked to infant illness, cancer risks, and pregnancy problems.

At the nearby Emerald Town Hall, the well water was safe to drink when the well was drilled in 2007. Since then, the water has consistently had levels more than three times the drinking water standard. Emerald Sky significantly expanded in 2014 after an ownership change.

“Financial impacts [include] buying bottled water, even for pets, and having visitors call ahead of time to see if homeowners have tested their water prior to a visit,” said Emerald resident Virginia Drath. “That is the real life consequence of such neglect by our government officials.”

The group also points out that the manure being spread in the area is rich in nutrients that Minnesota and Wisconsin have agreed to reduce the flow of into the St. Croix River. Excess phosphorus is contributing to noxious algae blooms in Lake St. Croix, a popular boating, fishing, and swimming destination.

Emerald Clean Water For All says the DNR could have added requirements to the permit to prevent future pollution problems. The group says practices such as rotating crops and using cover crops wherever possible would make a difference.


3 responses to “Citizen group decries DNR decision to double dairy size”

  1. Val Avatar

    Greg, where does Emerald Sky Dairy’s product go? It would be interesting to know which bottlers, cheesemakers, yogurt producers, etc. buy milk from this dairy. The state doesn’t see an issue with the way Tuls’ operates this ranch, but perhaps boycotting the end product(s) might get their attention. Just a thought.

  2. Donna Schmitz Avatar
    Donna Schmitz

    Why do we need so many animals in one place? We as a society do not eat that much meat anymore. Hog, cattle, or poultry farms do not give back what they take from the land and water. Other than overuse of land and water what good are they? So many CAFO’s are in, or already in the planning process in Wisconsin near waterways. Why?

  3. Steve Scoll Avatar
    Steve Scoll

    Emerald is a place I came to avoid years ago due to its foul air. I truly don’t understand how people can permit themselves to be subjected to the toxicity levels being generated there. I’ve lived in dairy country for half a century and recognize neighborliness as part of our social fabric, but Emerald is disgusting and ought be held to account.



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Citizen group decries DNR decision to double dairy size