The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has obtained a judgment against Opitz Custom Heifers, LLC, that requires the company to pay $65,000 in forfeitures, surcharges, costs and attorney's fees for violations of state water pollution control laws at the Opitz heifer operation in Adams County.
Opitz Custom Heifers must also pay up to $10,000 to replace a contaminated private well on property adjacent to the heifer operation, as well as pay the costs of groundwater monitoring for at least the next two years.
Opitz Custom Heifers, a large heifer-raising business that consisted of four separate properties located within a two-mile radius in Adams County, is classified as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, and is subject to a facility-specific pollution discharge permit. At the request of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the DOJ initiated enforcement action against the company due to violations of its permit. The complaint alleges that Opitz Custom Heifers violated its water pollution discharge permit because it failed to prepare and submit a heifer lot management plan that would properly manage the manure generated at the four properties. This was necessary to reduce contaminant loading on each of the four lots utilized by Opitz Custom Heifers. The complaint alleges 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 nitrates being absorbed directly into the soil and contaminating the groundwater. The complaint also alleged that a neighboring private well was contaminated by Opitz Custom Heifers’ activities.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Opitz Custom Heifers has agreed to pay a judgment of $65,000 in penalties, costs and assessments to settle the violations alleged in the complaint. 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 the open lots and properly abandon the lots, 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, Opitz Custom Heifers successor corporation, Burr Oak Heifers, LLC, has agreed to upgrade the facility in order to comply with the permit by constructing approved barns in which to house the heifers, constructing adequate storage for at least 180 days of liquid manure and wastewater containment, constructing an approved feed storage runoff facility, and submit an annual updated and adequate nutrient management plan.
“Wisconsin's pollution discharge elimination system permit program works to ensure that CAFOs comply with their permit terms and properly manage manure and waste water,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that all of Wisconsin's large livestock operations comply with the law.”
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