Now that things have started to move concerning Kewaunee County’s water contamination, there are many standing up to take recognition for their part in addressing the health and water crisis here. It is important that people realize that many of the changes to address the contamination in our region of northeast Wisconsin have come about through citizen actions and finances, and through legal means, including the filing of the petition to invoke the emergency powers found in the Safe Drinking Water Act, to the EPA in October of 2014.
While “imminent” actions from the EPA are finally on the horizon for citizens affected by contaminated water, the process has been long and difficult, and a tremendous amount of work and hours spent in workgroup meetings by many to address ground and surface water contamination in Kewaunee. Citizens who have had permit challenges, who have sought out on their own the clean water resources available to us, such as Stonehouse Water Technologies, and other actions too numerous to cite – made by regular, everyday people – have spurred the successes where we live. It has taken two years to receive what was the first request: clean, accessible water for those in need, which we have been assured is “imminent.”
Along the way there have been many disappointments and frustrations. Many, having spent a year in workgroups to address our contamination, created recommendations for remediation, recommendations that have now been significantly reduced, due to Governor Walker’s involvement at the end of the process. Recently Representative Joel Kitchens came to Kewaunee’s Land and Water meeting stating that the majorly reduced input, of a year’s worth of hard work by multiple individuals, was “a huge win.” While Mr. Kitchens postures his involvement in addressing Kewaunee’s water issues and the “huge win” from a gutted proposal to adequately address contamination issues here, I hope the public will see through the “political grandstanding” Joel has marginalized others for, such as Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Eric Genrich, and their karst legislation that Joel did not support in the last session.
The people who have created the greatest changes in addressing the pollution in Kewaunee are those living with it, those who have water that they cannot drink and should not be bathing in it. Citizens on limited financial resources. Citizens who have had incidents of illness due to water that is poisoned. These same individuals are the ones due the most credit for what has happened – not those who will now show up to cite their involvement.
I thank the neighbors and citizens of Kewaunee County who continued fighting in this struggle through multiple disappointments, exhausting personal finances, and the emotional and physical toll that was taken. Not only has greater education and awareness occurred in our region of the state, but throughout all of Wisconsin, the alarm sounding to protect our greatest natural resource – water. Make no mistake, this effort came forth by the people, people I am proud to know and live with, in a community of people who know who they are, and recognize their efforts and sacrifice. Thank you.
Lynn Utesch, candidate for First Assembly