“My world was going to crash down:” Locals concerned over dumping of infectious chickens, eggs

A commercial farm in Jefferson county must dispose of potentially infectious chickens and eggs.
Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 6:49 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 8:06 PM CDT
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PALMYRA, Wis. (WMTV) - The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced Wisconsin is the latest state to confirm the presence of Avian Influenza. Now, a commercial farm in Jefferson Co. must dispose of millions of potentially infectious chickens and eggs. Locals are concerned about the disposal process, however. They were notified the nearly 3 million chickens from Cold Springs Egg Farm will be dumped in what is essentially their backyard.

Lyle and Kay Braaten have been residents of Palmyra for 15 years. But their lives were turned upside down in one short weekend.

“I found out that my world was going to crash down, and my world was going to change,” said Lyle.

The Braatens live across the street from a 40-acre parcel they say is owned by S&R Egg Company -- the company that owns Cold Springs. They say representatives from the USDA showed up at their home Saturday to inform them the infected birds would be composted there. Sunday, trucks started arriving.

“They’re now building roads back there so they can get it ready so they can bury 2.75 million chickens and eggs,” said Lyle.

Kay says it’s only a matter of days before the flock is buried.

“The dead carcass are supposed to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday we think,” she said. “We don’t really know because nobody has told us anything.”

The couple has made calls to the Department of Natural Resources, the Jefferson Co. Health Dept., state legislatures and even a hydrologist for answers. They say their neighbors are just as concerned.

“We need help, we can’t keep going like this,” Kay said.

It’s not only the lack of communication they are upset about. The Braatens and their neighbors are worried about what this could mean for their health.

“Everybody has their own well,” Lyle said. “If that gets taken away lets face it, my property will go down in value. And you just can’t drink it.”

In a statement DATCP said the agency has “been in communication with residents near the composting site and we will continue to work with our state and federal partners to address their concerns.”

In another statement Tuesday, DATCP addressed the ground water concerns saying the composting site “was chosen because it presents the right conditions in terms of distance from surface to groundwater to make sure groundwater is not impacted.”

According to DATCP, “the preferred depth to groundwater should be in excess of 24 inches to seasonal highwater tables and on-site soil depths in excess of 36 inches to bedrock. The site, which is owned by the producer, has sufficient area and meets the locational criteria for a compost site to avoid groundwater contamination.”

Further, the full composting process will take approximately 30 days once construction on the site is complete, the statement explains. The site will be monitored daily “to ensure the compost is reaching the optimum temperature to deactivate the virus as quickly as possible.”

The Cold Springs Egg Farm and the DNR could not be reached for comment.

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