Wisconsin filmmaker speaks with Kewaunee County residents about dealing with water contamination
Sep 21, 2017
As a UW-Oshkosh Radio, TV and Film student last year, filmmaker Luke Stevens produced a video about the rural drinking water crisis in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. Luke grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin and was aware of Wisconsin’s long history of clean water protection, but he didn’t know how hard local people who live just a short drive north were fighting for their own drinking water.
Luke told us more about why he made the film and how a school project turned into something much more meaningful.
“In Kewaunee County, a third of the local residents who rely on well water can’t drink the water that comes out of their faucet. When a friend working at the Clean Water Action Council in Green Bay told me about this I couldn’t believe it. People who live less than an hour away from me are struggling to find access to clean drinking water.
“That’s why the real reason I made the film was to show the stories of the people who are directly affected by the groundwater contamination from dairy farming in the area. I had to find out what was going on.
“I dropped all of my current projects and started skipping work and class to drive up to Kewaunee and talk to the people living there. I talked to scientists, farmers, activists, reporters, and most importantly the people directly affected by this crisis. I put all these conversations together into a film that I hope can help anyone realize and relate to the struggle of our neighbors.
“Kewaunee is the perfect storm for groundwater contamination. It is a county dominated by the dairy farming business with the largest concentration of CAFOs in the state. It’s a region with too much livestock manure that makes well water unsafe to drink when spiking nitrate levels and bacterial infections such as E. coli get into their groundwater. If manure is spread at the wrong time or if there is a big rain, many people’s water will turn cloudy, smelly, or even run brown.
“I’m not going to tell you that watching or sharing this film will solve everything. I will tell you that in making this film I fell in love with the people I talked to. I enjoyed every conversation I had and every connection I made with my neighbors in Kewaunee County. I learned that every solution is bigger than the problem it has to solve: solving the problem is not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible either. And most importantly I learned that if we are going to fix this we need to love each other and take care of each other.
“Please watch ‘Kewaunee: River of the Lost.’ If it made a difference in your day please share it so it can make a difference for someone else.
Watch the film and join the conversation on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KewauneeRiveroftheLost