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Big win for opponents of co-digester: Town board recommends denial

Hundreds attend meeting to express opinions about co-digester project
Posted at 5:13 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 06:13:11-05

WAUPACA (NBC 26) — After nearly five hours of discussion, the Town of Lind board recommended against changing zoning maps and the town's comprehensive plan. A dairy farm requested the changes so it could construct a waste co-digester.

  • Brooks Farms wants to change the zoning of part of its land from agricultural to industrial to accommodate the co-digester
  • The company building the digester, Vanguard Renewables, says it converts manure and food waste into renewable energy
  • Opponents of the plan expressed concerns about its effects on air and water quality in the town
  • After the Town Board request will now go to the Waupaca County Planning and Zoning Committee, and eventually to the county board
  • The original public hearing in December was postponed because too many people packed the Lind Town Hall

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

After nearly five hours of discussion here at Waupaca High School, the Town of Lind board votes to recommend denial of a request from a local dairy farm. The farm wanted to amend the town's zoning map and comprehensive plan in order to build a piece of technology called a co-digester.

This dairy farm wants to build a co-digester to make natural gas out of waste products.

"The naturally occurring microbes in the manure digest that food waste to create a renewable natural gas and rich fertilizers that will feed our soils," assistant herd manager Sydney Brooks Howard said.

The company partnering with the farm — Vanguard Renewables — says the waste brought into the digester is like food scraps.

"We bring on stuff that, if you think about the digester as a stomach, what a human stomach could use," co-founder Kevin Chase said.

But many people living in the Town of Lind believe what goes in and out of the digester could be dangerous to the community.

"As a group of citizens, we have been described as adversaries," Laurie Knutzen said. "We accept that description today, and count ourselves worthy at the proposal before us."

During and before the meeting, the opponents expressed worries about the impacts of the digester on water and air in Lind and Waupaca County.

"Primary concerns? Smell, water, and our soils," Michael Kneisler said.

"So what are my concerns? Number one is water quality," Jahleen Hacklander said.

They implored the town board to reject Brooks Farms' request, or at least re-consider it, saying the technology is not well-researched or well-regulated enough.

"This request for zoning from agricultural to industrial zoning needs to be denied," Michelle Winter said.

The Brooks family says they would not do something to endanger their neighbors, and the project would be a positive resource for the environment and economy.

"This passion for protection of our local environment is shared by my family as well," Ron Brooks said. "We live here too."

The zoning map and comprehensive plan amendment request will now go toward the Waupaca County board, which will take the Town of Lind's recommendation of a denial into account when making their decision. But for now, the co-digester plan has stalled in the Town of Lind.