Six environmental groups called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to step in and clean up unsafe drinking water in Kewaunee County.
“It is unacceptable that more than one-third of the private drinking water wells in Kewaunee County are unsafe — contaminated with bacteria, nitrates and other pollutants,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, senior staff attorney with Clean Wisconsin.
Clean Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Kewaunee Cares, Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin and Environmental Integrity Project wrote to the EPA in early March and requested federal support for clean, safe drinking water.
“After 18 months of little action, it’s time for EPA to step in,” Wheeler said.
Kewaunee water quality
In October 2014, the groups petitioned the EPA, asking for intervention under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The environmental groups said rollbacks of existing protections raise questions about Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ ability to ensure that drinking water sources are protected from contamination, especially from manure spreading at large-scale farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations. Kewaunee County has 16 such operations.
Wheeler, in a statement, said, “Proposals to protect groundwater around the state, in Kewaunee County and beyond, continue to be blocked by the Legislature and by the DNR’s interpretation of its own authority to manage our waters.”
She continued, “Kewaunee is the latest victim of a fundamental, systemic problem in our state, and surely won’t be the last. Sadly, since our petition was filed, Wisconsin has fewer protections in place instead of more.”
Demands of EPA
The EPA, in a letter sent to the agency’s Chicago office, was asked to:
- Immediately provide Kewaunee County residents with clean water.
- Expedite test results of well water contamination.
- Issue emergency rule changes to ensure the DNR has authority to protect water.
- Provide more research and groundwater monitoring on sources of pollution.
The groups also asked the EPA to monitor closely the DNR’s efforts to develop a plan to implement recommendations.
“Kewaunee County residents have been waiting for years for our state and federal governments’ help in solving this critical issue,” said Wheeler.
“We are insisting on immediate relief for Kewaunee County residents who can't drink their water,” said Sarah Geers, an attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates.