Herald and Journal, March 26, 2001

Lagoon overflows near Waverly

By Lynda Jensen

Liquid manure spilled into a storm water pond three miles south of Waverly March 16 and discharged into a county ditch, said Kim Brynildson, senior engineer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The spill occurred at one of two lagoons at Metro Dairy, a dairy cow operation with 1,150 animals. The lagoons are the size of football fields, said neighbor Margaret Millerbernd.

The number of gallons spilled and cause of the accident are still under investigation, Brynildson said.

Metro Dairy owner Virgil Scherping declined to comment.

Although Metro Dairy sits on an aquifer, the spill was not enough to threaten drinking water, Brynildson said.

The Millerbernds returned from vacation and discovered the spill in the small creek that runs across their property, adjacent to Metro Dairy.

The small creek runs into a preserve in Montrose and eventually, into the Crow River, Millerbernd said.

"It looked thick and scummy," Millerbernd commented.

Apparently, a pipe became plugged between the first and second lagoons. The operators rigged up a pump to bypass it, and accidentally over-filled the lagoon, Brynildson said.

The contents of the lagoon spilled over into a storm water pond, which discharged into Wright County Ditch #31, Brynildson said. This is on the east end of the Metro Dairy property.

The lagoons are designed to hold their contents without overflowing, Brynildson said.

"It looked like they were doing an expedient job of cleaning it up," commented another neighbor, Ken Reinert.

Reinert cautioned people not to jump on the band wagon against the company, saying that Metro Dairy is normally a careful business. "They employ 20 to 30 people," he said, and are worth their weight as an employer in the area.

"Metro Dairy would have to spill 10 times what they did, to equal the pollution of a small farmer," Reinert said.

Metro Dairy as a large operator is more careful - and more regulated - than small operators who spill on a regular basis, and go unnoticed by the public and media, Reinert said.

The accident is the first ever recorded at the business, which started operation in 1995.


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