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.
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.
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.
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.
The Center is known for its comprehensive coverage of frac sand mining. But let’s face it … our stories are long. So in the meantime here’s a quick introduction to the issues, from local control to dusty air.
ByRon Seely, Cole Monka, Rachael Lallensack, Daniel McKay and Kate Golden |
It’s not a good sign when even the dogs won’t drink your tap water. “They sniff it and then drink the bottled water we pour,” said Frank Michna of Caledonia, one of hundreds of southeastern Wisconsin residents whose wells are contaminated by pollutants that may be coming from buried coal ash.