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Public input opportunity

Burr Oak Heifers WPDES permit

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), like Burr Oak Heifers (formerly Opitz Custom Heifers) are required to obtain a water quality protection permit known as a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit. The permit regulates how CAFOs store and land apply manure and process wastewater (e.g. milking center wastes and feed storage leachate) in order to protect water quality.

The redeveloped Burr Oak facility (referred to as Burr Oak Heifers) includes four freestall barns which will house 3,100 heifers or 2,675 animal units. Specifically, Burr Oak Heifers will house 1,470 heifers (400-800 pounds) and 1,630 heifers (800-1200 pounds). The heifers will produce an estimated 3.32 million gallons of liquid manure and 45,900 tons of solid manure on an annual basis. Manure and process wastewater will be stored in a liquid tight concrete lined manure storage structure with a total capacity of 7.05 million gallons.

Opitz Custom Heifers

Opitz Custom Heifers was a large heifer-rearing operation which consisted of four separate properties, including the Burr Oak site. The four Opitz facilities were located within a two-mile radius, with each site having multiple outdoor feed lots. The feed lots were located within an area consisting predominately of sandy soils. In 2003, the Department (DNR) required the installation of three groundwater monitoring wells at each of the four facilities.

Enforcement actions

Based on the results of the groundwater monitoring, the DNR initiated an enforcement action against the Opitz Custom Heifers facility in 2008.

In December 2010, at the request of the DNR, the Wisconsin Department of Justice initiated an enforcement action against the Opitz Custom Heifers due to violations of its WPDES permit. The complaint alleged that Opitz Custom Heifers failed to prevent or minimize groundwater contamination because it placed large numbers of heifers on open lots with no vegetation, resulting in groundwater contamination. The complaint also alleged that a neighboring private well was contaminated by Opitz Custom Heifers’ activities.

DOJ enforcement action and judgment

The Wisconsin Department of Justice obtained a judgment against Opitz Custom Heifers, LLC, in August 2013 (Stipulation and Order Attachment [PDF]). Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Opitz Custom Heifers agreed to pay a judgment of $65,000 in penalties, costs and assessments. The settlement agreement also requires Opitz Custom Heifers to pay up to $10,000 to replace the contaminated private well, to remove all animals from all outdoor open lots and properly abandon the outdoor open lots at all four facilities, including planting a crop that will uptake the nutrients from the soil, and to monitor the groundwater at the abandoned lots, as well as water quality at adjacent private wells, for at least two years. Opitz Custom Heifers principal Jeffrey Opitz also has agreed to personally guarantee funds to accomplish the required monitoring. In addition, Burr Oaks Heifers, LLC, (the successor corporation to Opitz Custom Heifers) is currently redeveloping the Burr Oaks facility, and has agreed to upgrade the Burr Oak facility to comply with WPDES permit requirements. This includes moving all animals under roof into approved housing facilities with concrete floors and bedding areas underlain with clay, constructing a proper manure storage containment structure and a feed storage runoff collection system, and submitting an annual updated and adequate nutrient management plan. The DNR approved facility plans for construction of the Burr Oak Heifers facility in 2013; shortly after which, construction at the Burr Oak Heifers facility began. This is expected to address potential future groundwater impacts from Burr Oaks Heifers and result in improvements to downgradient groundwater quality which will be evaluated via permit required groundwater monitoring.

Additional WPDES requirements and NMP

Land application of manure and process wastewater from a permitted CAFO is done in accordance with a DNR approved Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). The Burr Oak Heifers NMP includes 2,982 acres of cropland, of which approximately all acreage is available to receive manure and/or process wastewater on an annual basis. The department-approved NMP confirms Burr Oak Heifers requires using 1,988 out of 2,982 total acres to land apply 3.86 million gallons of manure and process wastewater and 48,097 tons of solids.

Groundwater monitoring wells

Burr Oak Heifers is required to install a minimum of two additional groundwater monitoring wells for the purpose of providing a more comprehensive groundwater monitoring system within the Burr Oak production area. The two new wells are in addition to three existing monitoring wells on site, at locations approved by the DNR.

For questions related to the establishment of an ACL, contact:

Bill Phelps

Alternative Concentration Limit (ACL)

While past practices at Opitz Custom Heifers has been identified as a source of groundwater contamination at the Burr Oaks Heifers production area, background nitrate levels in the area surrounding this operation are elevated due to activities unrelated to the operation. The ten-year mean average of nitrate + nitrite (as N) at monitoring well MW-2, the well designated as being representative of background water quality flowing into the Burr Oaks Heifers production area, was calculated at approximately 15 mg/L N. Based on this information, the DNR intends to grant an exemption to the 10 mg/L nitrate + nitrite (as N) groundwater quality standard for Burr Oaks Heifers (per s. NR140.28, Wis. Adm. Code) and establish an Alternative Concentration Limit (ACL) of 28 mg/L. ACLs acknowledge the presence of background levels of contaminants. In accordance with standard practice, the ACL was calculated as the mean concentration of background nitrate levels plus 2 standard deviations. The ACL indicates high background nitrate levels coming onto the site and that these levels have been highly variable. Background groundwater results will be evaluated over the five year permit term and the ACL will be modified at the next permit reissuance based on documented background levels in groundwater flowing onto the site.

Public input opportunity

During the public notice [PDF] period for a CAFO WPDES permit, interested citizens and the applicant can submit comments on the conditions of the WPDES permit. The DNR will review and respond to the comments, make any needed changes to the permit and issue its decisions on the WPDES permit.

Persons wishing to comment on or object to the proposed permit action, the terms of the nutrient management plan, or the application, are invited to do so by attending the public hearing or by submitting any comments or objections in writing to the Department of Natural Resources, at the following named permit drafter’s address. All comments or suggestions received from members of the public no later than 7 days following the date of this public hearing will be used, along with other information on file and testimony presented at the hearing, in making a final determination.

Public hearing
Informational hearing date, time and location:
April 15, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
Adams County Community Center
569 North Cedar Street
Adams WI 53910
Note: There will be a Q & A session at 1:00 p.m., immediately prior to the public hearing at the same site.
Written comments
The department invites written comments on the proposed individual permit. Submit written comments to the permit drafter by mail or email:
Terence Kafka, DNR
5301 Rib Mountain Drive
Wausau WI 54401
Written comments must be received by Tuesday, April 22, 2014.
WPDES Permit
For questions related to the WPDES permit, contact:
Terry Kafka
Nutrient management plan (NMP)
The NMP was reviewed and a conditional approval was issued by the department on May 1, 2013. For questions related to the NMP, contact:
Andrew Craig
Statewide nutrient management specialist
Runoff Management
Last revised: Tuesday April 15 2014