DNR says mile-long manure spill nearly cleaned up

A mile-long trail of manure that spilled from a ruptured pipe from a Dane County biodigester is nearly cleaned up.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday that the 300,000-gallon spill happened on Nov. 24. The animal waste spread west from the PPC Partners energy-producing facility, then poured into a ditch system and flowed southeast into Six Mile Creek in Waunakee.

It’s not clear how much sewage reached the creek, although no fish kills have been reported, said Mark Cain, a state Department of Natural Resources wastewater engineer. Cain said the company has been cooperating with the near complete cleanup, but that if it’s found to have violated its wastewater permit, it could be fined up to $10,000 a day in addition to other penalties.

Joanne Haas, a spokeswoman for the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement, said the agency has responded to about 50 manure spills annually since Jan. 1, 2007.

The spill was discovered by an employee, said PPC Partners CEO Jim Ditter. The employee closed a valve to prevent more spillage and barriers were installed to limit the spread of the material and reduce pollution of waterways, Ditter said.

The Dane County Land and Water Resources Department has helped the digester company find farmland where the manure can be spread as fertilizer, Ditter said.

“The cause of the spill is being investigated in order to return this facility to producing vital green energy for the region,” Ditter said.

When the $12 million biodigester opened in 2011, county officials hailed it as a way to prevent nutrients from farm animal manure from getting into the lakes, where they cause dense and sometimes smelly growths of weeds and scum.

Nearby farmers sent manure to the digester, which is designed to remove about 60 percent of the phosphorus from the waste while producing methane to power generators that were designed to create $2 million a year in electricity, enough to allow Alliant Energy to power 2,500 homes.