Tag Archives: Kewaunee County

Environmental groups seek federal action to clean up Kewaunee County groundwater

Six environmental groups are seeking federal action on longstanding groundwater contamination issues in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, where roughly 30 percent of tested wells are compromised by bacteria, high nitrate levels, or both.

“Everyone deserves safe, clean and reliable drinking water, but Kewaunee County residents gamble with their health simply by turning on the faucets in their homes,” Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney with Clean Wisconsin, said in a news release issued on Oct. 22. “We’re seeking federal action to help create a long-term solution to what’s unfortunately been a long-term problem for thousands of people in the area.”

Clean Wisconsin, Environmental Integrity Project, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Midwest Environmental Defense Center, Kewaunee CARES and the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin have jointly filed a petition for emergency action detailing the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exercise its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That law empowers the EPA to step in to provide safe drinking water in an area where contamination poses serious public health threats.

The petitioners — the environmental groups — are asking the EPA to investigate the source of contamination and initiate enforcement actions against polluters that should be held accountable. The request builds upon ongoing local efforts including the recent 20-0 Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors vote seeking to limit winter manure spreading in the areas most susceptible to groundwater pollution.

“Kewaunee County has for too long been the canary in the coalmine with unchecked contamination in our soils and water, threatening our homes, health and future,” stated Lynn Utesch, a farmer and member of Kewaunee CARES. “The time has come for action, as we’ve hit a state of emergency plaguing our community and threatening human health.”

Portions of Kewaunee County are especially susceptible to groundwater pollution because they have shallow soils overlaying fractured carbonate bedrock, resulting in the rapid movement of contaminants, including bacteria and nitrates, according to Clean Wisconsin. Even a single exposure to salmonella or campylobacter jejuni which has been found in some of Kewaunee County’s wells, has been known to cause serious illness or death. High nitrate levels pose significant risks to children and pregnant women including blue baby syndrome, a life-threatening condition that limits the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the brain.

“It’s a very disturbing trend to see groundwater contamination continue to rise as the state fails to act,” said Dean Hoegger of the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin. “We need the EPA to step in to protect the citizens of Kewaunee County and other karst regions.”

In the request filed on Oct. 22, the EPA is asked to investigate pollutants in Kewaunee’s drinking water to pinpoint safety concerns, create a monitoring system and determine what can be done for sufficient management standards to protect against future contamination. Similar EPA action was taken to help manage nitrates in the groundwater of the Lower Yakima Valley in Washington State in 2012.

“Clean groundwater is essential to the health and welfare of citizens who rely on it for drinking water,” stated Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, a national organization that provides legal support to grassroots efforts fighting pollution. “EPA must hold polluters accountable for cleaning up Kewaunee County’s drinking water, as it has in other states.”

Despite well-documented pollution, including a comprehensive task force report conducted in 2007, Kewaunee County’s groundwater issues have been largely untouched by local and state officials.

Agriculture is not the sole cause of the contamination but is a major contributor, and intensive agricultural practices are on the rise in Kewaunee County, which has the highest concentration of large livestock confinements of any county in the state. Records show that the animals on Kewaunee’s largest farms, combined, produce the biological waste equivalent of 900,000 humans annually, about nine times the size of the population of the city of Green Bay. Nearly 340 million gallons of liquid manure and more than 81 tons of solid manure is spread annually throughout the county. Kewaunee County farmers own and manage 175,449 acres, or 80 percent, of the county’s land.

On the web…

The petition and supporting documents can be found at www.cleanwisconsin.org/kewaunee-safe-drinking-water

Soups for cold days

Few foods have the restorative power of soup. We’re not talking about the canned heat-and-eat variety, many of which lean too heavily on sodium as a key ingredient. We prefer to make our own soups and, thanks to our participation in a community-supported agriculture program, we always enter the new year with a cornucopia of root vegetables just waiting for some broth.

This time of year we prefer hot, thick soups chock-full of ingredients (mostly vegetables) to fill our stomachs and warm our souls.

In creating a soup, professional cooks start with one or two specific ingredients and add contents they regard as complementary. Our choice is often determined by what’s been sitting for the longest time in the vegetable bin. For instance, three or four leftover turnips cry out for a batch of booyah, an extra chunky chicken-noodle-vegetable soup that’s a local favorite.

Ready to stash the Campbell’s and try making your own soup from scratch? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.


In producing the traditional northeastern Wisconsin soup-stew, our Kewaunee County grandmothers started with a big stewing hen cut into pieces and set to boil. Everything — including the skin, bones, neck and vital organs — were included along with the meat.

The resulting soups were rich with layers of chicken fat, vegetables and homemade noodles. As much as we loved the chicken booyah, we’ve modified the recipe to be more heart-healthy and appealing.


2 lbs. chicken breasts, bone-in

5 quarts water

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 medium onion, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

3 stalks celery, diced

(We also add turnips, parsnips, rutabagas or celeriac from our CSA)

2 cups frozen corn 

5 oz. Harrington’s Amish Style Handmade Noodles


Remove skin from chicken breasts and place them in a large stockpot. Add 5 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. 

Remove the chicken breasts from the stockpot and place on a plate to cool. Allow the stock to cool and remove any congealed fat. Strain the stock and return it to the pot. Heat to boiling, add the vegetables and noodles and simmer for 30–45 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, remove the meat from the bones and cut it into small pieces. When the vegetables are soft, add the breast meat to the stock and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!


We’re fans of vegetarian soups and of anything using squash. Blogger Kaylen Denny’s low-fat adaptation of the following Bon Apetit recipe for Azteca Squash Soup is a delicious, meat-free alternative. 


1 large butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs.)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

2 cups finely chopped celery

6 cloves garlic, finely minced 

6 cups vegetable stock or canned vegetable broth 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 15-oz. can of black beans

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped small

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (plus more to garnish soup if desired)

1–2 tablespoons of jalapeño hot sauce 

Low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt to garnish soup (if desired)

Crushed tortilla chips to sprinkle in the soup (if desired)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and use a sharp spoon to scoop out seeds. Place the squash on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and roast until slightly brown and soft enough to pierce with a fork (about 50-60 minutes).  Let the squash cool enough to handle.

While the squash is roasting, chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick soup pot and sauté the onions and celery until soft (about 7 minutes).  Add minced garlic and cook 2–3 minutes more.  Add 2 cups of vegetable broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes.

Once the squash has cooled, scrape the flesh from the skin and mix it with the other 4 cups of broth and the ground cumin.  Add this mixture to the soup pot and simmer about 20 minutes; then use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup.  

While the soup simmers, rinse the black beans with cold water. Chop the cilantro and red bell pepper.  Add the beans, red bell pepper and cilantro to the soup mixture and simmer for 15–20 minutes more, adding a little more vegetable stock if desired.  Stir in the jalapeño sauce to taste and serve the soup hot, garnished with low-fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and tortilla chips.

Sundae scoop | Two Rivers defends title as ‘birthplace of the sundae.’ Stick a cherry on it, Ithaca.

In Two Rivers, an official Wisconsin State Historical Society marker proclaims the Manitowoc County community as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae. But Ithaca, N.Y., disputes the claim, saying the distinctly American dessert originated there.

As a result, a friendly rivalry exists between the two communities. VisitIthaca.com, the city’s travel website, maintains the first sundae was served in its environs in 1892. The website even features a song jabbing Two Rivers’ claim. Sung to the melody of “Moon River,” the lyrics go:

Two Rivers, why live in denial? The story you compile, won’t play.

Your sign maker, a truth faker, without sundae proof your claim’s melting away.

Really, Ithacans? Your tunesmiths haven’t done the math. The first ice cream sundae dates back to 1881 in Two Rivers, and history proves it.

Entrepreneur Ed Berner owned a soda fountain at 1404 15th St. in Two Rivers (or TR, as some local residents refer to the community of 12,000.) Church laws were such that the selling of “immoral” carbonated soda was not allowed on Sunday, which left Berner with little to do on the Sabbath except polish his glassware.

George Hallauer, a local who had moved to Illinois and was vacationing in his hometown, walked into Berner’s shop one Sunday and asked for a dish of ice cream. Spying a container of chocolate syrup on the back counter – the kind Berner used to make his chocolate sodas – Hallauer asked Berner to splash some syrup on his ice cream.

As a confection professional, Berner was aghast at the idea. Chocolate on ice cream? That would spoil the ice cream’s flavor! 

However, Hallauer persisted. Berner finally relinquished, adding the chocolate sauce to the ice cream. The rest, as they say is history.

Berner’s new creation, which cost a nickel, became pretty popular. Clad in an immaculate white jacket with a forever-unlit cigar clenched between his teeth, Berner began experimenting with various ingredients, including apple cider, and giving the dishes colorful names. Soon customers could order a Flora Dora, a Mudscow and a chocolate-and-peanut concoction called the Chocolate Peany, but only on Sundays.

Fast forward a few years to George Giffey, who owned an ice cream parlor in nearby Manitowoc. Legend has it that a 10-year-old girl asked for a dish of ice cream “with the stuff on top” on a day that was not Sunday. Giffey got around the local protocol by the calling the dish itself a “Sunday.”

The changing of the spelling to “sundae” is something generally credited to a traveling glassware salesman who provided the canoe-shaped dishes in which the treat was served. In writing up an order for Berner’s shop, he mistakenly used the spelling “sundae” and the name stuck. On the other hand, it may have been a political move on Berner’s part to appease the local burghers who disapproved of naming the confection after the Sabbath.

Ithaca tells a similar story, crediting Chester Platt of the Platt & Colt Pharmacy as preparing a Sunday dish of ice cream for the Rev. John M. Scott of the local Unitarian Church. Platt topped the ice cream with cherry sauce and a candied cherry. Scott was delighted and, being a more liberal clergyman, suggested the dish be called a “Sunday” after the day of its creation.

While that sounds plausible – Ithaca has an 1892 newspaper ad that supports its claim – history shows an 11-year difference between the two tales. This clearly gives Two Rivers the edge over Ithaca and other would-be sundae originators, a list that includes Evanston, Ill., Plainfield, Ill., Buffalo, N.Y., Ann Arbor, Mich., Norfolk, Va. and Washington, D.C. 

Two Rivers’ claim is further substantiated by writer H.L. Mencken who, in tracing the origin of the word “sundae” for his volume “The American Language: Supplement 1” cites Two Rivers as the source both of the word and the treat. Mencken’s 1929 interview with Ed Berner verifies the fact.

So, in your face, Ithaca! You can sit on your soda fountain stool and spin! Two Rivers is home to the ice cream sundae.

But there’s more. In June 2006, the Two Rivers City Council issued a proclamation formally challenging Ithaca to its claim as the sundae’s birthplace. A package was delivered to former Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peters containing an inflatable dairy cow, an ice cream sundae T-shirt and jewelry.

In addition, postcards were sent to Peters and an ad was placed in the Ithaca Journal featuring a coupon offering free ice cream sundaes to Ithaca residents. The coupons were only redeemable in Two Rivers, and redemption required the bearer’s acknowledgment of Two Rivers as the sundae’s birthplace.

According to volunteers at the Washington House Museum and Visitor Center, more than 80 such coupons have been redeemed and, seven years later, they are still coming in.

Berner’s original soda fountain was torn down years ago, but a replica exists in what was a former tailor shop located in the historic Washington House, 1622 Jefferson St. For $2 volunteers will serve a dish or cone of Cedar Crest Ice Cream and recount the tale of Ed Berner and his creation.