Spills at manure digester spark concern - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Spills at manure digester spark concern

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DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- Dane County Executive Joe Parisi is calling for a operator to be brought in to oversee a community, manure digester near Waunakee, after a third spill of thousands of gallons of manure, in four months.

Department of Natural Resources officials say the most recent spill of 35,000 gallons of manure took place Wednesday. Officials say the spill was contained to the digester property in the Town of Vienna.

Officials say a spill in November unleashed ten times the amount of waste as this week's spill, with manure flowing off-site and into a creek.

In a statement, Parisi says the site's operator, Clear Horizons LLC, should "..install additional safety equipment, and contract with an experienced operator..." until at least the current situation is stabilized.

Clear Horizons spokesperson Jim Ditter has yet to respond to a request for comment from 27 News.

DNR official Robert Manley says equipment breakdowns played roles in all three spills, including the most recent mishap.

"A pipe burst, in a different location from the burst pipes that were the cause of the first two spills," Manwell tells 27 News.

DNR waste water engineer Mark Cain says since the second spill at the facility in January, Clear Horizons has reviewed operations and made some adjustments at the facility.

Clear Horizons still faces potential consequences from the DNR's Jan. 29 issuance of a Notice of Violation in connection with the Nov. 24 spill.

The violation letter cites the manure discharge going off-site, and polluting waters.

The letter also states Clear Horizons has failed to meet permit-required, phosphorus removal goals. It also states the company's failed to deliver reports to the state by required dates.

But Manwell and other stakeholders stress the community manure digester has succeeded in using waste to produce clean energy, and divert thousands of gallons of manure from possible entry into the county's watershed.

"Those digesters are designed and built with removal or prevention of phosphorus that's present in the manure, from having a chance of reaching the surface waters of Dane County," Manwell says.

Cain says state officials and representatives of Clear Horizons may be able to resolve the elements of the violation notice, but says DNR enforcement action, or civil action by the department of justice, are possible.

A second, Dane County community manure digester in Springfield has operated since January, and DNR officials say no spills or environmental issues have occurred. That facility is operated by a vendor, while Clear Horizons uses its own staff to run its Town of Vienna plant.


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