LA FARGE — Otter Creek was impacted by a manure spill that killed 1,300 fish, including brown and brook trout, on Oct. 4, but there are encouraging signs a week later.
Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Shawna Stringham monitored the stream all weekend after the spill. She said she saw hundreds of fish swimming in the trout stream Sunday.
Otter Creek is a tributary of the Kickapoo River, and fish in the Kickapoo were not affected, according to the DNR. The DNR measured, took photos and froze all of the dead fish pulled from Otter Creek.
“Our trout streams, because they are spring-fed, come back,” Stringham said of Vernon County waterways. But that doesn’t mean the runoff event wasn’t harmful — and not just to the obvious species.
“Our ecosystem got impacted by this,” she said. “There are more than just the fish in our ecosystem.”
Worms, crayfish and other macro and micro invertebrate feel the impact of the incident, she said.
The spill came from Wild Rose Dairy north of the village of La Farge, which is a permitted concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). A CAFO is home to 1,000 “animal units” or more, said Andrew Savagian, DNR communications. Wild Rose Dairy has a permit to house about 1,700 animal units, according to DNR records. This is equivalent to about 1,215 dairy cows.
Kevin Hintz co-owns K & D Manure Handling, Sparta, which Wild Rose contracts with to handle manure. When questioned about what happened, he said he feels, “Horrible, horrible, just horrible. Since this has happened, my partner and I have sat down, looked at things and put other safety measures in place as to what could we have done to possibly prevent this and it’s all being worked on and taken care of.”
When the leak occurred a call came into the DNR spill line, Savagian said, and because the incident is under investigation, he said he could not say how much manure went into the creek, if citations were issued or other specifics.
“We were happy to see it did not get into the Kickapoo but not happy there was fish die-off,” Savagian said.
Hintz said a crew inspects hoses when they are laid out before the manure passes through them. A person with a radio looks for issues, and there is someone to double check. The second person found the leak.
“The first person who inspected it missed it or the hole wasn’t evident,” Hintz said. “It was all upon startup. There was a hole in the hose that was patched but had broken open. The hose was running from the lagoon on the dairy that houses the liquid manure and it was running into a field.”
Hintz said Wild Rose called the spill line.