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Colby farmer to appear in court after overflow

A Colby area farmer has been ordered to appear in Marathon County Circuit Court on Feb. 20 in response to accusations that he violated county ordinances by allowing his manure pit to overfl ow last fall.

According to a complaint filed Jan. 27, Keith Rahm, owner of Rahm Dairy on Huckleberry Road, allegedly violated two different ordinances, one governing livestock facility licensing and another dealing with animal waste and nutrient management.

The accusations stem from an Oct. 7 manure spill at Rahm’s 650-cow dairy, located just outside Colby in the town of Hull.

Representatives of the county’s Conservation, Planning and Zoning Department responded to the Rahm farm after the spill was reported and helped the farmer clean it up.

Paul Daigle, the Land and Water program director for Marathon County, said at the time that Rahm immediately cooperated with CPZ staff to mitigate the effects of the overflow.

The manure flowed across a roughly 1,000-foot strip of land on its way to Elm Creek. The creek run less than 100 feet away from one of the city of Colby’s wells, but city officials said the manure did not have any impact on the city’s drinking water.

According to the complaint signed by Daigle, Rahm’s waste storage facility exceeded its maximum capacity “on or about Sept. 13, 2019.” The complaint said Rahm continued to use the storage facility for another 23 days after it reached its capacity, resulting in the overflow.

“The defendant did not take reasonable action to prevent or immediately stop the overflow,” the complaint reads. “Based on liquid manure volume and flow path calculations, it can be determined that the overflow continued for at least two additional days.”

In 2015, the county board authorized the CPZ to start issuing citations for manure handling violations under a newly revised ordinance.

The livestock ordinance Rahm is accused of violating carries a possible citation of between $5 and $500 for each offense, with each day of violation being considered a separate offense. If convicted by a court of law, the total forfeiture would between $500 and $5,000, plus surcharges and other assessments.

For a first-time offense of the nutrient management ordinance, the fines range between $5 and $500.