First Phosphorus Water Quality Trade for Wisconsin

Feb. 26, 2016
Wisconsin DNR approves first water quality trading permit for Baker Cheese Company

With phosphorus and water quality in Wisconsin’s lakes and streams at the forefront of local environmental concerns, The Probst Group, LLC has participated in the state’s first approved industrial water quality trade.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) recently approved its first water quality trading permit for the Baker Cheese Company, located in St. Cloud, Wis. During the design/build/start-up process, Baker Cheese worked closely with The Probst Group, Godfrey and Kahn, S.C., Midwest Prairies, LLC and the WDNR to develop a successful trade strategy that allows the facility to meet phosphorus discharge limits and also reduces the overall amount of phosphorus released to the local watershed.

“Not only are we meeting all of the water quality requirements expected of us, but we’ve added some meaningful habitat to the local land base and are growing our business at the same time,” said Jeff Baker, vice president of Baker Cheese Company.

Water quality trading is one of many tools available to Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit holders in order to comply with new, more restrictive water quality-based effluent limitations.

Water quality trading (which allows point sources to offset their pollution load and comply with phosphorus limits by taking credit for other phosphorus reductions in the watershed) can be a cost-effective option for dischargers to ensure compliance with very restrictive phosphorus limits while improving the overall water quality. Trade credits can be used to counter process upsets, provide an alternative to the installation of redundant tertiary systems and allow for a small margin of relief at the point source while actively reducing the non-point source impact on the watershed.

In 2010, the WDNR implemented one of the most stringent phosphorus discharge standards in the U.S., requiring WPDES permit holders to discharge phosphorus at concentrations at or below 0.075 mg/L. Dischargers were provided multiple options to meet the discharge limits, including costly facility upgrades, water quality trading, adaptive management, or in some cases, economic hardship variances.

The WDNR recommends that dischargers review their compliance options well in advance of the time their permit renewal is due in order to have sufficient time to make informed compliance decisions, as developing and implementing a successful trading strategy can take up to three to five years.

For Baker Cheese, the approved trade means increased production capabilities at a reduced cost and the potential for business expansion, all while ensuring benefit to the local environment.

Source: The Probst Group

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