Sauk County farmer Jim Goodman, seen here at the farmers’ market in the village of Dane, said he believes Wisconsin’s nitrate problem has been exacerbated by “too many animals in too small a space” and the government’s failure to enforce pollution laws. Goodman is an organic farmer who uses nitrogen-fixing cover crops and manure rather than artificial fertilizers.

Going organic: One farmer’s fight against contaminants in the groundwater

In the early 1990s, Jim Goodman and his wife began to worry about how the chemicals they were using on the farm might affect their children. The fourth-generation Wisconsin farmer decided to make the shift away from conventional farming at his Sauk County operation. Now certified organic, the farm includes 120 head of cattle on pasture, including 45 milk cows, and 300 acres of crops.

Land use is a factor boosting the level of nitrate in the water in Wisconsin. In the Upper Midwest, millions of acres of grassland — which leaches little nitrogen into aquifers — have been converted into fields of corn, soy and other crops since 2008, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. Here, a farmer harvests corn near Blair in Trempealeau County.

Nitrate in water widespread, current rules no match for it

Levels of nitrate, one of the Wisconsin’s top drinking water contaminants, are increasing. Nitrate comes primarily from fertilizers, including manure, and puts infants and expectant mothers particularly at risk. A projected 94,000 households are drinking private well water with unsafe levels of nitrate. And many of them don’t even know it since few private well owners conduct regular testing.

Center’s Dee J. Hall receives Lee President’s Award for State Journal WEDC investigation

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s Dee J. Hall received an award for reporting from her former employer, Lee Enterprises, on Thursday. The Lee President’s Award, the company’s highest journalistic honor, recognized Hall and Wisconsin State Journal Reporter Matthew DeFour for their investigation into a failed taxpayer-funded loan to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s top donors. The award, which was shared with State Journal Assistant City Editor Mark Pitsch, recognizes the “outstanding achievement in any aspect of print and online journalism, from reporting and writing to photography, video, graphics and presentation” in the past year among Lee’s 50 daily newspapers. The investigation involved Building Committee Inc. of Milwaukee whose owner, William Minahan, had given Walker $10,000 on Election Day in 2010. The investigation by Hall and DeFour found one of Walker’s top aides, Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, had pushed for a $4.3 million loan to the company, which was on the verge of collapse.

Frank Michna buys bottled water for drinking and cooking in his Caledonia home because of high levels of molybdenum and boron in his well.

Safe, clean drinking water eludes many Wisconsinites

Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin’s 5.8 million residents are at risk of consuming drinking water tainted with substances including lead, nitrate, disease-causing bacteria and viruses, naturally occurring heavy metals and other contaminants, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has found.

In 2012, Kohl's Corp. was awarded up to $62.5 million in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., in part to build a new headquarters and expand its Wisconsin workforce by 3,000 workers. But disappointing sales figures caused the company to pull back, instead opting to acquire and renovate space near the existing headquarters. The company also has created just 473 of the 3,000 jobs it plans to add.

Scott Walker’s untold story: Jobs lacking after big state subsidy of Kohl’s stores

In its first 15 months of existence, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. awarded $126 million in incentives to 24 companies without a full financial review. Some deals turned out well, others have failed. The largest — up to $62.5 million in tax credits to Kohl’s Corp. — so far has not generated the number of jobs or amount of capital spending promised.