Herald and Journal, April 23, 2001

Metro Dairy to pay state for sampling of local wells

By Lynda Jensen

Metro Dairy, Waverly, has agreed to reimburse the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for the cost of it sampling drinking wells immediately adjacent to property owners at a recent spill site.

The testing is related to an estimated 100,000 gallons of liquid manure that spilled March 15 when two earthen lagoons at the dairy spilled into a storm water pond three miles south of Waverly and discharged thousands of gallons of liquid manure into a county ditch in Woodland Township.

Metro Dairy, and its owner Virgil Scherping, have since been charged with violations from both the Wright County attorney for violating the county feedlot ordinance, as well as the MPCA, which gave a notice of violation for permit and water quality infractions.

It is unclear whether the MPCA will penalize the dairy. An enforcement forum will be made up of MPCA staff, supervisors and representatives from the Attorney General's Office to study the facts, MPCA Area Manager Myrna Halbach.

In its clean up efforts, Metro Dairy removed 380,000 gallons of the spilled mixture out of County Ditch 31, which runs just past the lagoons and then winds its way across half the township in the form of a small creek.

Clean up efforts ceased March 24, with both the MPCA and Metro Dairy saying that the clean up was complete. This is contrary to neighbors living there, who insisted that the spill continued much longer than this, and faulted the MPCA for relying on Metro Dairy for information without checking it for accuracy.

The creek eventually empties into the Crow River, although the spill didn't reach the river and no fish kills were reported, Halbach said.

Initially, Metro Dairy attempted to contain the spill on its own property, but did not notify any authorities of the problem or attempt to clean it up until four days after the event, Halbach said, when the spill got out of control and spread down the adjacent creek, Halbach said.

Feedlot operators are required to notify officials regardless of whether a spill is on its own property or not, Halbach said.

In a statement released by Scherping, the dairy company agreed to voluntarily submit to three terms:

· The dairy will reimburse the MPCA for testing wells immediately adjacent to the ditch west of County Road 110.

· Metro will have Liesch Associates, a legal environmental consulting firm that represents the dairy, prepare a comprehensive written report and analysis of all data collect about cleanup activities.

· Metro will complete an investigation of its earthen lagoons and manure management procedures to determine the cause of the overflow and to consider any necessary improvements to prevent a future spill.

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