Mary Jane Koch stands near the site of her family’s former summer cottage on Lake Wisconsin. For decades, the Badger Army Ammunition Plant dumped its waste into the lake, an impoundment of the Wisconsin River. The Army has since removed tons of heavy metals from the lake and has proposed building a public water system to provide clean drinking water to area residents.

Costs, water pollution remain at closed Badger Army Ammunition Plant

Decades of toxic waste disposal at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant — including pouring millions of gallons a day of polluted water into Lake Wisconsin — have contaminated some nearby residents’ drinking water and raised concerns about the long-term effects on their health. But help may be on the way.

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.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources surveys the state's waterways to track everything from fish populations to mussels, as well as overall water quality. Here, DNR technicians Justin Haglund, right, and Aaron Nolan collect live brook trout from Ash Creek in April 2013 in a long-term study on the spread of gill lice.

Wisconsin DNR mulls dissolving science bureau

Internal correspondence obtained by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism confirms discussions about the possible dismantling of the bureau and a reorganization that would move researchers into other agency divisions.
Critics, both inside and outside the agency, say such a reorganization would rob the state of impartial science that should guide critical natural resource management decisions.

Ariana Preciado, 7, and her brother Aidan, 4, are the fifth generation of their family to live in Carrollville. Their mother, Sarah Preciado, says the neighborhood has deteriorated since the factories shut down in the 1980s. Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Recession worsens brownfields backlog in Wisconsin

While the state has made some progress with the backlog in the past two decades, a “startling” number of plant closings during the recent recession has created “an entirely new generation of brownfields,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

An overview of the 400-acre plot of Preferred Sands mine in Blair, Wis., in Trempealeau County on June 20, 2012.

Wisconsin frac sand sites double

Frac sand fever has hit much of west-central Wisconsin, catching residents and local governments by surprise when demand for sand suddenly soared and permit applications began to pour in. The number of Wisconsin frac sand mining operations has more than doubled in the past year.