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.

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.

Attendees at a rally against solitary confinement spend time inside a mock solitary confinement cell outside the state Capitol in Madison in October. The cell, built by the statewide group Wisdom, is based in part on drawings made by former inmate Talib Akbar during one nearly yearlong stint in isolation.

Wisconsin joins national push to curb solitary confinement

Wisconsin has made a “culture shift” in its use of solitary confinement in prisons, eliminating it as punishment for minor rule infractions and cutting the time inmates spend in isolation for more serious offenses, Department of Corrections officials revealed in an interview granted as part of a legal settlement with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

President Obama: Solitary confinement ‘not smart’ and ‘not going to make us safer’

President Barack Obama called for reduction of solitary confinement during a July 14 address to the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia:

“I’ve asked my Attorney General to start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons. “The social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent. Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, for months, sometimes for years at a time? That is not going to make us safer. That’s not going to make us stronger.