Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery (ECC) has been ordered by Wisconsin Department of Justice to pay a $250,000 penalty and install additional pollution control equipment for alleged violations of its wastewater discharge permit at ECC’s Ellsworth, Wisconsin cheesemaking facility.
ECC owns and operates a milk processing facility that processes milk into barrel cheese, cheese curds, and dried milk products. The facility includes a wastewater treatment plant that is operated pursuant to a wastewater discharge permit issued by the Wisconsin DNR.
Between October 2017 and August 2022, the State alleges ECC repeatedly violated its permit by exceeding the permit’s effluent limitations for biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids, ammonia, dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, and temperature.
The alleged violations negatively impacted the water quality and water environment of the receiving water, Isabelle Creek—a trout stream used by local anglers. Effluent limitation exceedances in August 2022 harmed an approximately 3-mile segment of the stream and caused a fish kill.
In addition to the $250,000 penalty, ECC must (a) install a wastewater effluent thermal chiller to cool wastewater before it’s discharged to Isabelle Creek; (b) replace a whey fines saver system in the production area that will minimize process liquid overflow events; and (c) install a high-strength wastewater diversion system that will allow for high-strength wastewater to be blended with lower-strength wastewater before it goes through ECC’s wastewater treatment facility.