Audit says DNR lax with violation notices

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jun 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-05 18:50:43-04

 In state audit has found Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources been lax about monitoring large livestock farms and municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants.

   A Legislative Audit Bureau report released Friday found the DNR didn't consistently follow its own policies when sending enforcement letters about violations. It found the DNR only sent notices for 33 of the 558 instances they should have over the past decade.

   The audit also found staff hasn't been electronically recording submissions of annual reports required of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Staff indicated they don't have time to thoroughly review the reports, meaning areas of noncompliance could be slipping through the cracks.

   A DNR statement says it's already recognized many of the issues identified and has been working to address them.

“The DNR appreciates the Audit Bureau’s analysis of our municipal, industrial and agricultural wastewater permitting programs.  We find the report, which covered a 10 year period, to be largely consistent with ongoing efforts the department is or has undertaken in these areas.  The DNR has recognized many of the issues identified by the audit bureau, and has already, or is in the process of, establishing systems to address them.

Some examples of actions taken:

Permit Backlog: A number of improvements have been implemented and the backlog for municipal and industrial permits has been reduced from 35.4% in April 2012, to 24 % as of April, 2016.

Municipal and Industrial Inspections: DNR consistently meets its inspection commitments agreed to with EPA.  In addition, DNR appreciates audit report finding that pointed out DNR performs more frequent inspections of CAFOs with previous violations – an example of how staff time is prioritized to focus our inspection efforts. The number of CAFO inspections more than doubled over the audit period.

Issues Identified by EPA:   DNR received a letter 7/18/11 from EPA identifying 75 issues and potential inconsistencies with Wisconsin’s authority to administer the WPDES permit program. DNR has worked to address most issues through eight administrative rule packages and other means. DNR has adopted six of eight regulatory packages that account for many issues identified by EPA.”