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A public informational hearing regarding the wastewater permit for Babcock Genetics, Inc., the Holmen-based large scale hog farm, has been set for 10 a.m. March 14.

The hearing will take place at the Holland Town Hall on W7937 Hwy. MH.

Babcock is a concentrated animal feeding operation that has about 11,100 pigs, sows and boars.

The animals produce about 11.3 million gallons of manure and wastewater each year, according to Babcock’s permit. Hog waste is collected along a chute that runs underneath the livestock barn to two types of lagoons before the final waste is pumped out and applied to fields. Babcock has about 681 acres available to apply manure.

Babcock monitors groundwater around its animal facility and waste storage lagoons for contamination three times a year, according to the company.

The La Crosse County Health Department requested the hearing ahead of Babcock’s five-year permit reissue. The new permit, which the state Department of Natural Resources has “tentatively decided” to reissue, would require Babcock to install at least five additional groundwater monitoring wells on its manure spray irrigation sites. The permit would require Babcock to submit its plans for review by the end of this year and start groundwater monitoring by the end of 2020.

Groundwater contamination has been a particular concern in parts of La Crosse County.

A 2017 county survey found nitrate contamination at levels above federal drinking water standards in 30 percent of private wells tested in the towns of Holland and Onalaska.

The county initiated the survey after a state audit found nitrates above federal standards at a local CAFO. They urged all private well owners to get their water tested. Nitrates, found in fertilizers, septic systems, and manure that can leak or runoff into the water supply, are a public health concern. Infants are especially sensitive to nitrates, which can impair their ability to circulate oxygen.

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Jennifer Lu is the La Crosse Tribune environmental reporter. You can reach her by phone at 608-791-8217 and by email jennifer.lu@lee.net.

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