Why do tourists come to Door County? Why do residents love to live here? Although there are many reasons, when asked, almost everyone would mention the beautiful waters that surround the county. But what if that picturesque water was polluted? What if the Bay was so contaminated that it was undrinkable, “unswimmable” and unable to support game fish? What if “dead zone” areas of no oxygen were prevalent in our waters, along with much green algae. What would become of Door County’s uniquely beautiful environment and our tourism based economy? Well you’re probably thinking, that’s just not going to happen. Unfortunately, the most current scientific data says otherwise.
In a recent in-depth study, financed in part, by the Wisconsin DNR, a large percentage of the sampled wells in Kewaunee County, contained some fecal microbes, many capable of making people sick. Specifically, Mark Borchardt, a microbiologist with the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and Maureen Muldoon, a geology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, completed the testing and presented some preliminary findings at a meeting in Kewaunee County on June 7, 2017.
Borchardt reported they randomly selected 621 wells to sample. The test results were shocking. They will be released in a formal report later this year. Borchardt noted that the concentration of bovine (cow) specific Rotavirus A was extremely high. He stated there were thousands of “bugs per quart” compared with the human specific ones. Many other pathogens were also found including E. coli, Salmonella, Rotavirus C, and microorganism Cryptosporidium. Borchardt said in an interview, “We’ve never seen these results in ground water before.” Rotavirus C can transfer between animals and humans. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and even death. Borchardt said, “If I was a Rotavirus C and I wanted to retire, I would move to Kewaunee County!”
Muldoon, an expert on the geology of Door County, echoed Borchardt’s remarks. She stated, “I cannot think of a worse place than northeast Wisconsin to put a lot of cows.” There are approximately 97,000 cows in Kewaunee County producing around 700 million gallons of manure annually, most of which is simply spread on the ground. When asked whether dispensing less liquid manure would reduce the well contamination Borchardt answered, “You don’t have to be a scientist for that one. If you remove the fecal source you remove the contamination.” What’s happening in Kewaunee County is literally and figuratively coming to Door County. Our surface and ground water are indeed connected.
This contamination is also prevalent in surface water only in higher concentrations. Significant “dead zones” are now growing in the Bay, including in Door County. If not stopped, more CAFOs, more cows, and more pollution is coming to Door County. This will significantly impact both our ground and surface water. I believe Door County tourism, property values, and quality of life depend on clean water. I am not anti-farming, or anti-CAFO, but I’m anti-CAFO here. It is time for our county board, to declare a Door County CAFO moratorium. The study shows this is simply not the place for future CAFO expansion.
Sister Bay, Wis.