Saturday, September 27, 2014

WI DNR default on water oversight prompting strong citizen responses

[Updated, 2:45 p.m.] 

From the Wisconsin Groundwater Council's 2013 report to the State Legislature:
The foundation of Wisconsin's groundwater law is the belief that all groundwater in Wisconsin must be protected equally to assure that it can be used for people to drink today and in the future. 
You know that residents in rural, relatively-conservative Wisconsin are unhappy with the state DNR's pro-industry groundwater 'oversight' when the Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors votes 20-0 for tougher local regulation.  
All 20 Kewaunee County Board members on Tuesday approved a public health and groundwater protection ordinance limiting winter and early spring waste spreading on thin soils over karst bedrock.
The measure passed despite opposition from the Dairy Business Association and other major Wisconsin agricultural groups that called it illegal... 
the ordinance [is] intended to keep waste — including manure, plus industrial and human waste — from contaminating groundwater in particularly vulnerable areas.
More, here.

The Kewaunee County Board actions echoes action in Jefferson County over the DNR's capitulation to tar sand oil pipeline expansion across Wisconsin greenlit by the DNR.

Media have noted that Wrong-Way Walker is polling more weakly in small-town Wisconsin than in previous elections, and I would wager that's a direct consequence of his direction to the DNR to ease pollution enforcement and the agency's recent - - but under-reported move - - to remove citizen input from regulatory reviews at the very time large ground water users, like big dairies and sand mines, are expanding rapidly.

Also expanding: controversial airborne manure spreading:
A center pivot manure irrigation system is used to spread manure on a Wisconsin corn field.
Wisconsin DNR photo
There is strong grassroots activity in Kewaunee County over the expansion of industrial-sized dairies that are wreaking havoc with local water and air quality - - here is a principal citizens' web site - - and a recent judicial decision cutting back a big Central Wisconsin dairy's ground water allotment attracted statewide attention.

As did the dairy's huge donations to Scott Walker's campaign while the news has been filled with stories about big donors allegedly funneling millions of dollars illegally to Walker's 2012 recall campaign.

It's not coincidental that so much of the recent attention focused on the disclosure of a $700,000 contribution from the out-of-state mining company allowed to write legislation that will open a swath of NW Wisconsin to open-pit iron mining - - at the expense of the water-rich Penokee range and a watershed that supports unique wild-rice harvesting.

Under this Governor, water that is in the public domain has become a major political commodity: people across the state do not like it and have strengthened their resolve to fight back.

Case in point: Bad River Ojibwe resistance to save their watershed - - which is also a fight in the public interest, broadly-defined, against private-sector water expropriation enabled by politicians obeisant to big, often far-away corporations.

And while you are digesting this information, check out this fascinating article about the differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin when it comes to sand mine oversight and the importance in Minnesota that is attached to ground water protection and citizen health:   

Wisconsin has handled the growth in the industry much differently than Minnesota, 
According to the report, the number of frac sand facilities in Wisconsin grew from seven in 2010 to 145 this year. In contrast, Minnesota has 19 active sand mines and 20 proposed facilities. 
Monitoring by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources —less than 10 percent of the state’s 140 frac sand facilities are required to monitor their air emissions — has prompted Midwest Environmental Advocates to circulate a petition that asks the state’s Natural Resources Board to conduct a health and environmental study of the state’s fastest growing industry. 
Kimberlee Wright, the group’s executive director, said citizens living near the sand mines have had their lives impacted by mining lights on 24-7, the noise from blasting, trucks and trains and people whose houses’ foundations are beginning to crumble from the repeated blasting nearby. 
“Special interests have pretty much crippled the ability of DNR staff to do their jobs,” Wright said. “Sound science is being overruled … leaving citizens very much at risk.”

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