Digester decision delayed again by town plan commission

Posted at 11 a.m. on September 18, 2019

The Brillion News

GREENLEAF – The Town of Wrightstown’s Plan Commission met on Wednesday, September 18, and went over answers to numerous concerns raised by citizens in e-mails and at the September 10 public hearing on plans by B.C. Organics (BCO) to build a $60 million manure digester on Mill Road, southwest of Greenleaf.

The Plan Commission members decided they were not ready to make a recommendation on the necessary conditional use permit that the digester project will require.

The Plan Commission will meet again on Monday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. to finalize the list of conditions it wants the town board to apply to the digester project.

If that happens and the Plan Commission’s work is done, the full town board would meet on Wednesday, September 25, at 6 p.m. to act on the conditional use permit application.

At the September 18 meeting, town attorney James Kalny responded to most of the citizen concerns raised on September 10.

Among the concerns raised and answered:

Concern: The project would lower nearby property values. Response: Only one home is located near the digester site. Since the digester solves a significant dairy manure problem, it might actually improve property value sin the area.

Concern: The number of truck trips between farms and the digester will increase. Response: Truck traffic hauling manure from farms to field application is significantly worse.

Concern: The town needed to hire an engineer to independently analyze the digester plan and application. Response: The town got documents from the Town of Holland, which contracted for engineering analysis. The DNR also assessed the proposal, as did the Town of Wrightstown’s engineer, Dean LaFleur of Robert E. Lee and Associates.

Concern: The project may not be financially viable. Response: The state Public Service Commission found the project worthy of a $15 million grant, so there is evidence of its viability. The town will also require a bond to cover the costs of cleanup and remediation should the project be a financial failure and fold.

Concern: If the project runs into financial trouble, it might try to bring in non-agricultural waste. Response: This is speculation on top of speculation. The need for any restoration is being addressed by the bonds; the town cannot make a judgment on the viability of a private business venture. Concern: Reverse osmosis, which BCO has in its plans, does not work on cleaning up liquid manure to produce clean water. Response: The DNR and Robert E. Lee feel it is viable, even in the volumes proposed.

Concern: Brown County does not allow prosecution of odor and noise problems in agricultural operations. Response: Regardless of the county’s position, the town can address these concerns through the contractual process of granting a conditional use permit.

Concern: The principals in BCO were involved in the operation of a problem manure digester plant called Clear Horizons; BCO claims it left Clear Horizons before the problems started. Response: The town is waiting for an answer from the DNR about when the Clear Horizons problems took place and whether the BCO principals were involved at that time.

Concern: Town board members and town plan commission members can be sued over their votes on the digester issue. Response: There is no personal liability, by state law, when an individual is acting as a public official.

Concern: The project could cause ground (well water) or surface water contamination. Response: That is unlikely because the soil topography is far different that in Kewaunee County and other areas where contamination has happened; those areas have shallow soil on top of permeable limestone bedrock (karst topography), whereas the Greenleaf area has clay soil several hundred feet deep and is not as vulnerable.

Concern: When the county landfill goes in across Mill Road from the digester plant, the landfill gas could be collected and piped to the digester. Response: That would require a change in the conditional use permit, which allow only for the acceptance of agricultural waste at the digester.

The photo accompanying this story shows cows hard at work making milk.

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