- Views & Opinions
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is proposing adding 192 waterways to a list of those that don’t meet water quality standards.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported most of the new additions have excessive levels of phosphorus, which spurs weed and algae growth.
State officials list impaired lakes, rivers and streams every two years as part of the federal Clean Water Act, which requires states to prioritize problem waterways and create plans to get them into compliance.
There are already more than 700 waters listed as impaired in Wisconsin, including many sections of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic rivers. DNR officials say about 75 percent of the waters it monitors have shown trends of improving over the long term.
Still, it can be hard for a polluted river to improve enough to get removed from the list. This year, the proposed list includes 17 waters the DNR wants removed, including the KK Road Beach on Lake Michigan in Sheboygan County for E. coli and three Madison beaches, including in James Madison Park on Lake Mendota, also for bacteria pollution.
Seven bodies of water, including most of the Gile Flowage in Iron County, were removed because of declining levels of mercury.
The list now goes to the public for input, and it must be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Two years ago, the EPA told the DNR to add more than 100 waters after concluding the state wasn’t following its own standards.
Brian Weigel, water quality section chief for the DNR, told the newspaper that the DNR doesn’t expect that will happen again because the state has more experience classifying waters for phosphorus.
Phosphorus is a nutrient in fertilizer and comes from yards, manure and wastewater treatment plants. The DNR says a growing number of waterways are being listed for the pollutant because phosphorus regulations with specific numeric limits in 2010 are just being assessed.
Business groups and an organization representing more than 100 wastewater utilities say the new regulations are too complex and costly. They are pushing legislation that would give them more time — up to 20 years — to comply with new standards. Environmentalists say the groups are trying to avoid stricter regulations.