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County adopts CAFO ordinance

The Douglas County Board adopted a new ordinance to regulate concentrated animal feeding operations with 1,000 or more animal units.

The county is currently under a moratorium for development of the large-scale farming operations while board study committee develops regulations to manage the operations.

The ordinance adopted Thursday night is modeled after one developed by Bayfield County.

Dr. Ted Eastland, a retired physician living in Gordon, encouraged the board to adopt the ordinance. Eastland said he was there on behalf of the Eau Claire Lakes Association.

He said about 94 percent, primary lake shore owners, in the association are concerned about the impact a CAFO would pose for public health, and water and air quality.

"Beyond the threat of polluting water — groundwater and surface water — there are public health risks to our citizens of this county," Eastland said. "These are serious, well-documented in medical, science literature."

He said among the risks are swine causing influenza in CAFO workers , families and veterinarians, which can mutate, making it hard to treat and resulting in further health risks to the community. He said there have also been documented cases of increased respiratory illnesses likely caused by hydrogen sulfide and ammonia in the air.

"I strongly support this ordinance," said Supervisor Doug Finn. However he questioned the state's position on adopting such ordinances.

County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said Douglas County modeled its ordinance after Bayfield County, which is facing legal action from the state over its ordinance.

"Now they're in negotiations" with the state, Liebaert said.

Finn said he believes county officials need to do what they can to maintain local control and push back with the state.

Supervisor Dave Conley said he would like to see the county consider a special zoning to prohibit CAFOs in environmentally sensitive areas of the county.

Liebaert said if the county restricted where CAFOs could not go, it would have to identify where they could go, which could be problematic.

The County Board will take up another ordinance next month, regulating storage of manure. The ordinance is being considered separately because it will affect all operations in which manure is stored.

The zoning committee plans to hold a public hearing on the manure ordinance June 6, before forwarding it to the County Board for consideration June 15.