Water protection in our state is not adequate, and is going downhill. High capacity wells and “concentrated animal feeding operations” (CAFOs) are stressing groundwater and surface water throughout Wisconsin. The situation is so dire that citizens have petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take back authority for implementation of the 1972 Clean Water Act from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), unless DNR provides an enforceable route to correcting many deficiencies and errors.
Many of us are aware of the fact that our neighbors in Kewaunee County are battling for limits on CAFOs to protect their wells, which in many cases now test unsafe. We are less aware that particularly in the central areas of the state, high capacity wells are drawing down water levels both surface and subsurface.
I was shocked to learn that Long Lake in Waushara County – a former small lake with cottages and good fishing and swimming and a depth of 14 feet – has utterly disappeared in the course of recent decades. Today there are more than 3,000 high capacity wells in the area, compared to fewer than 100 in the 1950s.
With increasing contamination of groundwater and depletion of surface waters, you would think that our state’s elected leaders, regardless of political party affiliation, would be working hard at strengthening the laws that cover such major activities, and that the DNR would be hard at work enforcing the laws that do exist. But that is not the case. Rather, laws are being proposed that further limit the DNR’s authority to regulate while enforcement actions have been drastically reduced.
Whichever party is temporarily holding the reins of government should be vitally interested in protecting the waters of our state, for all the obvious reasons of health, safety, agriculture and environment. The situation has become shockingly bad.
We all should thank the citizens throughout the state who are spending their money and their time working on the major issue of water conservation. And we should support their organizations in our communities. For us in Door County, a short list includes: Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, the Door County Environmental Council, and Kewaunee Cares. In addition, there are excellent state-wide organizations working tirelessly with limited funds and enthusiastic volunteers, to turn the tide against further degradation of our waters.
For more details, you can see the online issue of the Winter Newsletter of the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin at cleanwateractioncouncil.org/newsletter.
Go to page 8 for the list of organizations. Each is worthy of your support – and it is something you can do to help.
Fish Creek, Wis.