Help Us Ban Spraying of Manure to Protect Human Health

Clean Water Action Council opposes spraying of liquid manure and agricultural waste using center pivot irrigation systems, traveling spray guns, sprinkler systems, and other methods that would aerosolize the waste, creating a mist that could travel great distances in the air. We urge all residents to ask their town and/or county leaders to protect residents by banning this practice.

While spraying is not a common practice in northeast Wisconsin at this time, this threat or spraying manure is likely to increase as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) grow in size and their owners seek ways to move animal wastes off site. The threat has already come to other areas of Wisconsin including Wood County. See resident concerns at:

Manure SprayingThe American Lung Association and the National Association of Local Boards of Health are among organizations that recommend a prohibition of these applications. They note that animal manure contains 160 pathogens that are capable of causing disease in humans and animals. Spraying creates tiny droplets allowing the waste to be easily inhaled and ingested which can affect the respiratory and digestive systems. This exposure can lead to a variety of health problems including chills and fever, itching and rashes, fatigue and weakness, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, headache, abdominal pain and cramping, and other debilitating symptoms and illnesses.

Spraying manure exposes citizens to higher levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide fumes than what is released by spreading the liquid directly on the soil. Spraying may also expose residents to additional hazardous materials. Manure lagoons may contain up to 10% additional waste including barn cleaning chemicals, municipal and industrial waste, and septage (human waste). Traces of antibiotics and animal hormones may also be present in the farm waste.

This method presents a risk which could be present up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and extend manure application to eight or more months per year. Spraying would allow application all through the growing season rather than just before planting and after a harvest. This would further raise the risk of exposure by sending pathogens airborne during summer outdoor activities, and residents may not even be aware the threat is present.

This is what can happen if your town does not pass a ban:
Even if you live in an urban area or miles away from a CAFO, you could be affected. See this video of manure spraying in North Carolina: Click Here

Please join us in the effort to have towns in northeast Wisconsin ban spraying of animal waste. We will assist you by providing literature to your town supervisors and residents, as well as provide a presenter for a citizen meeting and your town supervisors’ meeting. Contact us at 920 421-8885 for assistance.

The following northeast Wisconsin towns have already passed a ban on the spraying of manure:

  • City of Algoma, Kewaunee County
  • Town of Ahnapee, Kewaunee County
  • Town of Lincoln, Kewaunee County
  • Town of Montpelier, Kewaunee County
  • Town of West Kewaunee, Kewaunee County
  • Town of Sevastopol, Door County
  • Town of Sturgeon Bay, Door County
  • Town of Gardner, Door County
  • Town of Brussels, Door County
  • Town of Union, Door County
  • Town of Liberty Grove, Door County
  • Town of Scott, Brown County
  • Eight, or more, other towns, and some counties elsewhere in the state, have also banned manure spraying.

Email us for a sample ordinance at

What We Currently know about Spray Irrigation of Manure

The following is compiled by Lynn Utesch, a CWAC member who also is a citizen representative on the State of Wisconsin’s Spray Manure Workgroup tasked with making recommendations for establishing regulations for spraying manure.

• All parties seem to be in agreement that there is just too much that we simply “don’t know” about this practice and more research must be done addressing the potential health and environmental risks associated with the practice of spray irrigating manure.

• In the practice of spray irrigation of manure, aerosolized lagoon waste is reduced into smaller particulate droplets, which are easily ingested and inhaled by humans and animals. Manure has over 160 different known pathogens, viruses and bacteria, and includes barn cleaners and their chemical make-up, antibiotics, hormones and may contain municipal and/or industrial wastes.

• All lagoon wastes should be incorporated into the ground immediately to diminish the risks from these wastes, and the pathogens and diseases they may contain.

• Becky Larson of UW Madison stated, “…transmission of pathogens through airborne routes is unknown and controversial.” Becky also stated that several meteorological factors complicate the practice of spray irrigation of manure including wind, humidity, temperature, and precipitation.

• Mark Borchardt USDA-Agricultural Research Service Institute for the Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Study revealed that the “bulk of pathogens reside in the liquid portion of manure.” That is the portion that would be spray irrigated.

• Borchardt also stated that there are three forms of transmission of pathogens: Through contamination of food or water, and from contact with surfaces contaminated with pathogens that were deposited from the air. These forms of transmission are all enhanced with particulate drift that would occur from spraying.

• More research has come out on superbugs, antibiotic resistant diseases, and pathogens such as methicillin-resistant staphyloccusaureus (MRSA), which travels through air-borne routes. More studies are being revealed indicating air can be a transport mechanism for these diseases.

• Children, the elderly, immune-suppressed individuals, and asthma and COPD patients, including persons with pulmonary/heart disease, could be more significantly impacted by exposure to these pathogens. These most vulnerable citizens deserve our FULL protection.

• Spray irrigation of manure will expose citizens to heightened ammonias and hydrogen sulfide fumes and stench that could continue for the duration of 10 continuous hours per day. We also fear that the industry will use this form of disposal for as many as eight months out of the year, extending the spreading season, and in turn human exposure.

• Uninformed citizens and individuals in the spray vicinity unknowingly risk exposure simply by being outdoors and doing normal, recreational activities.

• Air emissions are not taken into consideration and are not regulated at all. Research shows heightened emissions with this form of manure disposal.

• We must be watchful of reports coming from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) which has extolled the virtues of spraying manure saying that this spoon-feeding of crops would result in less road traffic and damages, and less soil compaction. DATCP also wanted to call this type of application of manure, “precision application of nutrients.”

• This terminology was discussed by the state manure workgroup where it was stated that there is “absolutely nothing precision about this practice, and that it should not be called precision anything.” Precision, as described in most dictionaries means precise; definite-exactness; correctness of arrangement or adjustment. This practice cannot be applied with precision. It is impossible even under the best of controlled conditions.

• Fugitive emissions, emissions that cannot be captured or controlled, are one of the greatest threats for this form of manure disposal. The WDNR stated, “Measurable drift will be defined as feeling droplets hit ones skin or visually seeing droplets on a pick-up truck windshield”. [Permit language in DNR documents, May, 2013].

• Drift is a reality. Currently in Wisconsin grape growers are suffering the results, and loss of grapes, and profits, due to the drift of herbicides. Lawsuits are ensuing in response to this problem. Drift, when it leaves one property, should be considered trespassing on another landowner’s rights.

• Crops as tall as 8 feet high would be considered for the practice of spray irrigation of manure increasing drift possibilities and increased exposure possibilities to residents.

• The current setback for spraying manure is 500 feet from a home. These setbacks can be reduced to 250 feet, with landowner permission. There are no current setbacks for roadway areas or property lines.

• Wisconsin Administrative Code, 214.14, requiring a separation of five feet from groundwater and bedrock under spray irrigation systems must also be upheld unconditionally, without any discussions to reduce this distancing.

• This is not a widely accepted practice in our state of Wisconsin, with only 10 farms currently using spray irrigation of manure. In other states, such as North Carolina, a ban currently prohibits any new permits using this practice.

• Devastated residents living near operations that are currently doing this practice in Wisconsin and other states have written letters and spoken publically revealing the problems posed by this practice, which include drift residues, stench, and flies, resulting in plunging home values and a diminished quality of life.

• Safeguards for the citizenry and the environment must be paramount. Wisconsin Administrative Code 214.21 pertaining to permanent in-ground monitoring systems must be kept in place unconditionally.

• Wisconsin Administrative Code, 214.14, requiring a separation of five feet from groundwater and bedrock under spray irrigation systems must also be upheld unconditionally, without any discussions to reduce this distancing.

• If permits are granted, maximum allowable wind speeds must be set, with automatic shut-offs when those speeds are obtained. There should be computer monitoring of all mechanical systems, to reduce risks due to mechanical failure.

• Permits are currently not written with standards that guarantee enforcement.


© Clean Water Action Council

P.O. Box 9144

Green Bay, WI 54308

(920) 421-8885

Office location:
A307 MAC Hall, UW-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311