A Hillsboro dairy owner has been ordered to pay $7,929 in forfeitures for allowing manure to spill from a storage facility.
James Mlsna, owner of Ocooch Dairy and an advocate for large-scale livestock operations in Vernon County, was found guilty on March 2 of three non-criminal ordinance violations. Mlsna was ordered to pay $2,643 for each violation and also ordered to repay $6,848 in cost-sharing money his dairy had received.
The forfeitures stem from a Vernon County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD) joint investigation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Vernon County Sheriff’s Department.
In the investigation it was discovered that overflow wastewater from a milk house at Ocooch Dairy had been flowing out of a pipe down a hillside. According to initial investigation records first reported by the LWCD last year, the runoff was first noted in September of 2008, but there eventually was proof it was occurring as far back as 2006.
The LWCD sought a court order on Oct. 3, 2008, and excavated an area near the milk house waste holding tank. Modifications to the construction design were discovered, according to the LWCD. These modifications allowed an intentional overflow of the waste holding tank, which also included manure; diverted the manure and waste overflow underground through a pipe to a location downhill from the structure; and discharged waste and manure out of the hillside with flow into the South Branch of the Baraboo River, the LWCD reported.
County Conservationist Kelly Jacobs said Mlsna has already paid his forfeitures and returned his cost-sharing money.
Mlsna has paid $15,241 to cover forfeitures and cost-sharing money. The three citations he received were from violations from 2006, 2007 and 2008. Mlsna could be removed from the Farmland Preservation program if he doesn’t correct problems at his farm by Sept. 15, 2009. This includes removing one-quarter of an acre of contaminated soil.
In all, the agreement between Mlsna and the county includes eight conditions.
Complete information on the agreement between Vernon County and Mlsna was not initially available without making an open records request.
While Mlsna has been a vocal proponent of large-scale farm initiatives, he’s also, on occasion, been in legal tangles regarding his dairy and political involvement.
A 4,000-gallon manure spill was reported at Ocooch Dairy in October of 2006. Mlsna was cited for that incident and paid a $444.60 fine after being found guilty of the ordinance violation of deposit deleterious substance in waters. In October of 2007, another overflow was found at Ocooch Dairy by the DNR. Mlsna said he was not cited for that incident.
Following the April 2008 general election, a group, Citizens for Agriculture and Friends of the Environment, (C.A.F.E.), through Mlsna, was issued a forfeiture citation for running a political advertisement without citing the name of the treasurer of the group. Mlsna said he was the group’s treasurer. Mlsna said he paid a $50 fine and court costs to settle that matter.
In January, 2008, a kidnapping was reported in eastern Vernon County. According to court records, those sought by law officers for the kidnapping were both illegal immigrants who had been employees of Ocooch Dairy.
Editor’s note: This includes information corrected from our print edition. A correction will appear in next week’s print edition of the Broadcaster.