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September 17, 2019

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Pictured is a map of landfills and transfer stations willing to take CWD-positive carcasses. More will be added, as well as dumpsters in the Adopt-A-Dumpster program, as the hunting season starts.
contributed graphic

Pictured is a map of landfills and transfer stations willing to take CWD-positive carcasses. More will be added, as well as dumpsters in the Adopt-A-Dumpster program, as the hunting season starts.
8/31/2019 7:30:00 AM
Department of Natural Resources unable to require landfills to accept deer carcasses

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

Research has pointed to landfilling deer carcasses as likely the best way to handle animals that are or may be positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). As a result, there has been talk about whether the department could require landfills to accept CWD-positive carcasses.

Ultimately, according to department legal counsel Cheryl Heilman, the Department does not have the authority, by rule, to require landfills to accept CWD-positive or potentially positive deer carcasses. However, it has been found that landfilling is still the best option and the DNR is authorized to offer indemnity for landfills that accept CWD-positive deer carcasses.

According to DNR field operations director of waste materials program Natasha Gwidt, while 28 municipal landfills can accept that waste, only 12 of those facilities do. There are also eight transfer stations accepting CWD carcasses, as well as one incinerator location in Barron County. She presented a map to the board, which was expected to go live on the DNR website this week. The map depicts where CWD carcasses could be dropped off, and will include dumpsters in the Adopt-A-Dumpster program as deer season gets underway.

The problem, as many board members pointed out, is that each place may have a slightly different set of rules.

Some may include pickup of the carcasses while others would require delivery. Former board chair Terry Hildenberg pointed out in some cases, such as in Shawano County, where he is located, a landfill may be closed for a time and waste shipped to another facility. In his case, waste is being shipped to Ringle, where the facility does accept CWD carcasses.

This could create even more confusion for the consumer and hunter.

DNR Secretary Preston Cole asked that a legend of some sort be added to the facilities map to allow people to get a better idea of how CWD carcasses would be handled at each facility and what steps hunters or consumers would have to take.

While Gwidt said landfilling is understood to be the best most cost-effective option, the waste program was also interested in exploring other options. However, one of the biggest problems is it is still unclear whether prions are destroyed, or sufficiently degraded, when being processed through a waste water treatment facility.

"We have to get this situation resolved," board member Greg Kazmierski said. "This is very discouraging. How do we not know that by now, 17 years into this?"

He said the state is still landspreading potentially hazardous waste from CWD-positive carcasses and is still unsure the reaches of that practice. He told Gwidt he was not intending to blame her, or anyone specifically, but he did feel the issue should have been thoroughly researched, and best practices determined, by this stage of the game.

Waste Management does not accept carcasses from CWD-affected areas and gave a statement defending that decision. The biggest issue for a landfill would be a wastewater treatment plant refusing to take their leachate, Waste Management said.

The liquid from the landfills, as leachate, is directed to a wastewater treatment plant. Should a plant refuse that leachate for any reason, such as possible CWD prion contamination, it would curtail the operations of that landfill.

Waste Management's national team of scientists, they said, have determined prions will survive landfilling and can, in fact, be fairly mobile.

When looking at the big picture, with the uncertainty of prion survivability through the landfilling and waste water treatment processes, Waste Management has decided to not accept carcasses from CWD affected areas.

"I think we're trying to put a square peg in a round hole," board member Bill Bruins said. "If the science says these prions live through this process, we've got to look for something else to do, guys, or we're not going to solve this problem."

Waste Management did say it wants to help with the problem, and is looking forward to finding ways to help and work with the DNR, but also needs to look out for its own best interests as well as the best interests of customers.

Board member Kazmierski also stated, whether or not Waste Management said they would take those carcasses or not, it was happening on the landscape. People are still disposing of their deer in their normal garbage, he said.

"I'd like to see the landfill people step up to the plate, because they are already accepting them anyway," he said.

Incineration was also talked about as an option, with chairman Dr. Fred Prehn speaking to the logistics of doing that on a large scale. He stated the option was not easy for the consumer or hunter, and the expense, as well as finding the facilities to perform the incineration, are some of the downfalls of that option.

The overall feel from both the board, the department, and even Waste Management, was that more work is needed.

There still seemed to be more questions than answers, with time running out quickly before the next hunting season.

Prehn asked that the dialogue continue, with a conference to talk about possible solutions. He asked Gwidt to set this up and to continue to work with partners to form a solution from various options.

Gwidt stated the consensus was more science was needed, which echoed the board's sentiments.

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