Explosion reported at manure digester near Waunakee

Waunakee fire chief calls incident a malfunction
Explosion reported at manure digester near Waunakee

An explosion at a manure digester near Waunakee caused a small fire Wednesday morning, but the fire has been contained and there were no injuries, officials said.

The explosion happened at about 8:20 a.m. at the facility in the 6300 block of Cuba Valley Road in the town of Vienna, Dane County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said.

Schaffer said the digester had been emptied Monday. When workers started an exhaust fan Wednesday morning, they reported hearing a loud noise. The nylon inflatable cover at the top of the digester then burst into flames.

Waunakee Fire Chief Gary Acker confirmed that the gas explosion happened, and said it was caused by a malfunction inside the plant.

“There is no threat to the local community,” said Leo Maney, project manager with Clear Horizons. “The digester will remain down until we are confident it can be restarted.”

Milwaukee-based Clear Horizons owns and operates the digesters, which convert cow manure from farms into energy, Schaffer said.

The plant has had other malfunctions in the past few months, including two major spills of manure in the past year.

The $250,000 digester cover is considered a total loss, Schaffer said.