DNR Finds 92 New Waters Are ‘Impaired’
80% of state’s lakes and rivers are healthy, but number polluted continues to grow.
The number of waterbodies that are impaired in Wisconsin continues to grow.
State environmental regulators are proposing to add 92 new bodies of water to the state’s list of polluted waters for 2022.
The DNR announced Monday that more than 80 percent of Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers are healthy, mirroring a long-term trend. While most waters are in good condition, the agency has identified 1,285 polluted bodies or segments of water.
“We do have impairment issues, but we also have a lot of healthy waters around the state, which I know a lot of folks enjoy to recreate on,” said Ashley Beranek, a surface water quality assessments coordinator for the DNR.
She said 142 waters have been added to the state’s healthy waters list, which now includes 7,841 waterbodies or segments across Wisconsin.
Waters that are listed as impaired will require a restoration that must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve fishing, swimming, recreation or other uses. Despite pollution, many waters listed can still be used in accordance with local guidelines.
The DNR added 33 waters to the state’s Restoration Waters List, which is made up of waters that already have a restoration plan approved by the EPA. Thirteen waters have also been proposed for delisting.
The COVID-19 pandemic hindered the DNR’s assessment of surface water quality last year. The agency conducted assessments on more than 2,000 water bodies since the last report. But, Beranek said water sampling wasn’t conducted for several months due to safety restrictions and some sampling was incomplete.
“I don’t think that impacted a lot on our listing numbers, but it’s possible that we could have had more healthy waters or maybe a couple more impaired waters if we’d had a full set of information from 2020,” she said.
The DNR is proposing 115 pollutants be listed as contributing to impaired waters. The majority of the pollutants are for phosphorus and bacteria. Some waterbodies have multiple pollutants listed and new pollutant listings have been proposed on waters that are already identified as impaired.