Application for mega-dairies in a karst area in eastern Jo Daviess County, IL; a story of ongoing litigation and flawed regulations

Samuel V. Panno, Donald E. Luman, S. J. Taylor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Late in 2007, a California dairy applied to the IL Department of Agriculture to site two industrial-size dairies in Jo Daviess County, northwestern Illinois (an area mapped as karst). The company proposed constructing dairies that would house 6,850 animals at each of the two adjacent sites. In early 2008, the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) prepared a report on the geology and hydrogeology of the proposed sites at the request of the State's Attorney General's Office. Jo Daviess County lies within the Driftless Area of northwestern Illinois. Bedrock underlying the proposed dairy sites consists of Middle and Upper Ordovician carbonate-dominated Galena-Platteville Group and the shale-dominated Maquoketa Group. The Galena Group has been characterized as karst by the ISGS based on the ubiquitous nature of solution-enlarged crevices in the formation and its importance as an aquifer throughout the county. The dairy sites are underlain by this karst aquifer which is overlain by 5 to 20 feet of unconsolidated materials and, in some places, remnants of Maquoketa Shale. Aerial photographs of the sites taken in 1947 revealed sinkholes immediately adjacent to one of the proposed sites. Further, chloride and nitrate contamination of the aquifer at depths of hundreds of feet suggests that the karst aquifer is highly susceptible to surface-borne pollutants. Given that the planned waste lagoons will contain over 100 million gallons of waste and will be sitting directly on and within the karst aquifer, the potential for groundwater contamination from spills and/or seeps of animal waste is very high. The dairy stated that there are no karst features on or beneath the sites based solely on about 40 soil borings drilled at each site. They made this statement in spite of the fact that karst features literally surround the sites. Based on their site characterization efforts which satisfied IL Department of Agriculture (IDOA) regulations, the IDOA granted permission for construction of one of the dairies. Local residents are attempting to stop construction through litigation; a preliminary injunction has halted construction since late fall 2008, and more hearings are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2009. This presentation will chronicle the efforts to resolve this issue and will describe the role played by the ISGS both in the field and in the courtroom.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
PublisherGeological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States (USA)
ISBN (Print)0016-7592
StatePublished - 2009


  • ISGS


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