On Sept. 19, a circuit court rejected the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) assertion that considering the downstream effects of phosphorus from an industrial dairy processing plant was merely optional. Based on the court’s decision, in issuing a discharge permit, the DNR must set a phosphorus limit that is protective of water quality in the Wisconsin River, Petenwell Lake, and Castele Rock Lake, rather than at just the point of discharge.

According to the DNR, Wisconsin’s 2010 phosphorus rule was intended to address water quality at the point of discharge. However, according to the petitioner, the Midwest Environmental Defense Center, the decision is consistent with views held by lawmakers and natural resources policy-makers as the rule was developed. DNR must now decide if it will appeal the ruling or reissue the permit in accordance with the court’s decision. Read more about the ruling.