Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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A step toward clean drinking water in Kewaunee County

Aug 24, 2015

Talks begin this month between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Kewaunee County citizens with polluted drinking water wells who petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for action last year. Other stakeholders, including representatives of the agriculture industry and environmental protection advocacy groups, will also be involved with the process.

The petition, filed with the EPA in October, 2104, formally requested federal action to provide clean drinking water to Kewaunee County residents with private drinking water wells with unsafe levels of bacteria, high nitrate levels or both. The workgroups are a first step toward progress for residents of northeastern Wisconsin who had to appeal to the federal government to intervene and direct the state DNR to develop solutions to the groundwater quality crisis in their community.

“It is critical for Kewaunee County residents living with polluted wells be directly involved with efforts by our government to solve their drinking water problems,” said Sarah Geers (Williams), Midwest Environmental Advocates Staff Attorney. “The problems are real and require immediate action, but Wisconsin needs all stakeholders to be represented in these talks if we are going to see any progress.”

Midwest Environmental Advocates believes that the industrial agriculture industry’s voluntary pollution control measures in places like Kewaunee County are only going to take Wisconsin part of the way toward balancing human health protections and agricultural development. People living with polluted drinking water wells need enforceable solutions, and if our DNR’s leadership believes the agency’s authority cannot put the protection of citizens’ drinking water first, we must look to state legislators to strike that balance through more protective legislation.

In the Petition for Emergency Action, Midwest Environmental Advocates joined Clean Wisconsin, Environmental Integrity Project, Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Kewaunee CARES and the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin to detail the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exercise its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act and other federal pollution cleanup laws. These laws empower the EPA to step in to provide safe drinking water in an area where contamination poses serious public health threats.

WORKGROUP MEETINGS SCHEDULED:

Short term solutions to get clean drinking water / BMPs

  • Meeting 1 - August 25th, 8:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m. Location – James P Caughlin Center, 625 E County Rd Y, Oshkosh, WI 54901

Areas susceptible to groundwater contamination / BMP workgroup

  • Meeting 1 - August 25, 12:00p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Oshkosh

Compliance workgroup

  • Meeting 1 - September 11, 2015, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • Meeting 2 - Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Meeting 3 - Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Meeting 4 - Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Meetings are open to the public and individuals who petitioned the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act will be a part of all workgroups. Individuals who were not a part of the formal petition are also encouraged to attend the meetings and be available to talk about how agricultural pollution affects their drinking water, dependence on bottled water, costs of water well testing or well replacement, experiences with health problems and other ways their impaired water impacts their lives.

The full petition to the EPA is available online.

/ tagged: water, drinking water, rural, agriculture, federal