Saturday, June 10, 2017

Complete DNR fail; Massive fecal pollution in Kewaunee County wells

[Updated from 6/9/17] 

As you read this post about groundwater pollution in Wisconsin's Northeastern Kewaunee County, where there are many large-scale animal feeding operations - - including one with a dairy cow barn the length of six football fields that was the subject of high-profile capacity litigation - - it's important to grasp that:

A recent state audit of the WI DNR shows that it failed to follow its own water pollution inspection and enforcement rules more than 94% of the time:

Wisconsin’s water quality regulators failed to follow their own policies on enforcement against polluters more than 94 percent of the time over the last decade, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau said in a report released Friday.
From 2005 to 2015, there was a general decline in state Department of Natural Resources enforcement activity to protect lakes, streams and groundwater from large livestock farms, factories and sewage treatment plants that discharge liquid waste, according to the bureau’s 124-page report. 
* The current DNR leadership, echoing Gov. Walker's desire to have the agency run with "a chamber of commerce mentality," prefers self-regulation and voluntary compliance rather than state directives, as agency Secretary Cathy Stepp explained to legislators:
Stepp responded by saying she has brought customer-friendly private-sector principles to the DNR so that instead of fearing the department, business operators view it as “a safe space” where they can obtain advice that helps them comply with regulations and avoid environmental violations.
* The DNR has no system for alerting people who live near one of these large-scale feedlots is they have received information that a manure spill has taken place, the DNR's spokesman recently said.

*  Walker and the DNR are trying quietly to put a band-aid over these disgusting and inhumane conditions which come straight from their growth-at-any-cost politics with low-key bottled water, deliveries that validate their failures and public-relations priorities in campaign '18 mode:
With livestock-contamination of drinking water a growing concern in Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources has quietly started efforts to provide temporary water supplies to people with tainted wells.
The DNR posted an update on its website in April that said it would provide temporary emergency drinking water when tests show that a water supply is contaminated and is likely due to groundwater contaminated by manure, a person on the property contracts a water-borne illness or there is a sudden change in color or odor of well water. 
* Kewaunee County farmer and environmental activist Nancy Utesch has called out Walker, state agencies and in particular, the DNR:
Kewaunee County deserves much, much more from the DNR, the Natural Resources Board, and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp than their shouting in a low whisper that help is on the way. Kewaunee is awaiting the DNR’s plan on how it will partner with our local Land and Water Department, our health department and local leadership to not only make good on the delivery of water to those in need, but to employ education, outreach and, if needed, a door-to-door campaign to raise awareness of the DNR’s ability to provide water.
Kewaunee’s citizens will also continue to pursue a request included in the Safe Drinking Water Act petition filed in October 2014 — that is, that the EPA help protect our community through a further comprehensive investigation to find the sources and extent of our widespread contamination.
* One third of the more than 290 large-scale animal feeding operations in Wisconsin are running on expired permits, making clean water compliance even less likely.

* This all dramatically underscores the damage done to constitutionally-protected citizen rights to clean and accessible water statewide, and the need for far-reaching remedial legislation, education and awareness.
The connected Wisconsin groundwater supply and contamination crisis about which I have devoted dozens of blog posts over the years - -  and which Wisconsin's special-interest-subservient GOP legislators and Governor just made worse by further minimizing state oversight of big polluters' groundwater now permanently privatized - - has been further revealed as a Scott Walker-Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Brown Water public health failure that runs more deeply and more dangerously than we imagined.

And which renders Walker's belated and campaign-related bottled water delivery program as little more than an insulting band-aid.

Look at this jaw-dropping headline and story about a known problem area that demands the kind of attention which is still drawn to Flint, Michigan:

Fecal microbes found in 60 percent of sampled Kewaunee County wells
Up to 60 percent of sampled wells in a Kewaunee County study contained fecal microbes, many of which are capable of making people and calves sick, two scientists told hundreds of local residents gathered at a public meeting Wednesday night.
The microorganisms included Cryptosporidium, a parasite that comes from both people and animals. Researchers estimated Crypto in drinking water is likely infecting 140 of the county’s 20,000 residents each year…
The researchers cautioned that the percentage of wells with microbial contamination may be even higher than their data show, since the 131 targeted wells were sampled only once during the study period, from April 2016 to March 2017. 
“It’s my professional opinion, based on 25 years of experience, that if we sampled more than once, (the contamination rate) would creep up to 90 percent,” Mark Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, told the crowd. 
Walker's Brown Water, donor-driven public health crisis needs to stop now. 


Anonymous said...

James that's a great nickname for him. "Brown Water Walker". I think we should hang that on him throughout his "visits" and campaigning.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

They gave more than 60% of their votes to Walker in Kewaunee County. They voted to "Trump that bitch." This contamination is one of the consequences to those votes.

So have you guys in NE Wisconsin LEARNED ANYTHING?

Anonymous said...

How about the next time Walker is out in public [if that ever happens] a bottle of KEWAUNEE be presented to him and he be asked to drink it. Matter of fact how about all Republican legislators be presented with water drawn from private wells in Kewaunee County on an ongoing and regular basis and they be required to consume it. Lets include Stepp in this deal also!

This has to be made a campaign issue and Vinehout being a farmer would be the perfect candidate to take this statewide. During the governor's campaign lets make sure that Kewaunee water be presented to him wherever and whenever he speaks!