Delafield approves Gehl manure agreement
Nashotah neighbors, alderwoman object

By Kelly Smith - Special to Conley Media

May 17, 2019

DELAFIELD — Despite protests from some of their Nashotah neighbors and objections from a city alderwoman, the Common Council has agreed to allow Gehl Farmland Investments to inject liquid manure on 262 acres of farmland near the Nashotah Seminary on the city’s northwest side.

The agreement with John Gehl adopted on a 6 to 1 vote on May 6 and has been described as “a compromise” by City Administrator Tom Hafner.

The agreement will give the city some control over the manure injection operations even though regulating manure applications is usually the exclusive domain of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, according to Hafner.

Gehl warned city officials he would sell the land to developers if he was not allowed to inject manure on the former Nashotah House Seminary Farm that he purchased in 2016. In August of 2017, scores of Delafield and the village of Nashotah neighbors complained about the public health threat and stench created by liquid manure from the Tag Lane Dairy of Ixonia that was improperly injected on the land.

Owners of the dairy, a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) with more than 2,000 cows, said the stench was the result of an equipment failure and improper application of the liquid manure.

As a result of the incident, Delafield and Nashotah both adopted local ordinances that outlawed the spreading or injecting of manure created by agricultural activities outside the city limits and village border.

The city, however, repealed its ordinance in August of 2018 after Gehl threatened to sell the land, presently in conservation, to developers.

Since then city officials and Gehl’s representatives have been negotiating a compromise.

Mayor Kent Attwell says he supports the agreement because it is likely to result in the more than 200 acres of farmland being preserved as open space which is consistent with the city’s long-range land use plan.

In addition, the agreement restricts where the manure can be injected and allows city officials to inspect the process.

“You can be sure that Tom Hafner and Tim Aicher will be watching,” Attwell told Conley Media.

The farm is in Common Council President Tim Aicher’s aldermanic district.

Concern from community

Aicher said 18 residents who reside next to the land reviewed the agreement and had no objections to it.

However, “All of that is happy talk,” said Alderwoman Jackie Valde, who voted against the agreement.

“I don’t think we should be risking Delafield’s aquifers,” she told Conley Media.

Valde, a teacher who studied environmental science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said scientific studies determined that aquifers serving some communities in southwestern Wisconsin were contaminated by manure from confined animal feeding operations.

She asserts cows from CAFOs have more toxic manure than cows in smaller farm operations because the CAFO cows are confined in small spaces and administered antibiotics and chemicals to encourage milk production.

About a half-dozen Nashotah residents at the May 6 council meeting agreed with Valde and pleaded with the council not to approve the agreement.

Nashotah has not rescinded its local ordinance restricting manure spreading despite a threat from Gehl to sell conservation land he owns in the village, said Village President Rich Lartz.

Gehl is required to file an annual report to the city that identifies when manure injections may occur, according to the agreement.

If no plan is submitted by April 15, no manure injection is permitted in that calendar year. According to the agreement, the city must be notified by Jan. 15 if a manure injection is planned in April or May.

Hafner said he does not anticipate a manure injection this year.

According to the agreement, the amount of manure to be injected shall not exceed one half of the amount permitted by the DNR and manure cannot be injected within 200 feet of private wells.

If Gehl Farmland Investments fails to abide by the agreement, the Common Council can adopt an ordinance prohibiting injection or spreading of manure that was not produced within the city limits, according to city officials.