Wisconsin Environment
Press Release

Wisconsin’s Waterways Haunted by Pollution

Scary Facts about WI waters

By - Oct 29th, 2015 02:05 pm

Madison, WI– In anticipation of Halloween, Wisconsin Environment unveiled the Wisconsin’s Scary Water Fact Sheet 2015, showing that a terrifying concoction of agricultural and other pollutants threaten our lakes and rivers.

“Halloween is the season to be spooked, but Wisconsinites shouldn’t have to be afraid of swimming, fishing and boating in Lake Mendota,” said Wisconsin Environment’s Elizabeth Rose Hansen. “Major polluters from agriculture and developers and dump toxic chemicals and hazardous waste into our waterways, turning it into a potion of pollution.”

In it’s new, frightening fact sheet, Wisconsin Environment found that:

  1. In 2012, Wisconsin Rapids had the worst reproductive toxin pollution in a single watershed in the entire country.  [1]
  2. Over a million gallons of manure spilled into Wisconsin’s waterways in 2013.  [2]
  3. In 2014, Door County was home to a 640,000-gallon manure spill into Sugar Creek, a small local waterway. [3]
  4. Swimming in many of WI beaches exposes you to E. Coli. In 2015, 15% of water samples from WI’s beaches exceeded daily bacterial maximums.  [4]
  5. Green Bay suffers from toxic algal blooms and “dead zones” from phosphorous pollution. [5]
  6. Statewide, nitrate levels exceed state and federal standards in 10% of the private wells sampled. In the Trempealeau County area, nitrate-nitrogen exceeded the drinking water standard in all thirteen wells sampled.  [6]
  7. Many counties, including Dane County’s waters are threatened by tar sands pipeline spills.  [7]
  8. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has repeatedly failed to enforce the Clean Water Act, the foundational legislation that protects our lakes and rivers. [8]
  9. Over half of Wisconsin’s stream miles are once again left vulnerable to pollution due to a federal court of appeal’s ruling to disband the EPA’s new Clean Water Rule. [9, 10, 11, 12]
  10. The same loopholes in the Clean Water Act leave the drinking water for nearly 1 in 14 Wisconsinites vulnerable to pollution. [9, 10, 11, 12, 13]

To protect Wisconsin’s wetlands and tributaries, Wisconsin Environment called on Congress to oppose any attacks on clean water.

At the end of the summer, Wisconsin Environment celebrated as the U.S. EPA’s Clean Water Rule finally went into effect, restoring Clean Water Act protections to waterways nationwide, including over 250 miles of waterways in Wisconsinites and the drinking water for around 1 in 14 Wisconsites. This was the biggest step forward for clean water in a decade.

Unfortunately, the Clean Water Rule is now under attack in both federal courts and the United States Congress.

Tressie Kamp from Midwest Environmental Advocates joined Wisconsin Environment in highlighting the frightening pollution problems in the state. “Here’s a scary water fact from MEA: Wisconsin does not have the staffing or funding to protect our State’s waters in full compliance with federal law.” To bring these water quality problems issues into the court of public opinion, last week on October 20th 16 Wisconsin residents filed a Petition for Corrective Action with the Environmental Protection Agency. The Petition asked that the EPA take back the DNR’s authority to issue water pollution permits if the DNR doesn’t start doing a better job in the very near future.

“Halloween witches and ghosts should be should be scary. The state of Lake Mendota shouldn’t be, ” added Hansen. “We urge Senator Baldwin to continue being a champion for clean water so that we can give Lake Mendota the Halloween treat it deserves: protection from pollution.”

Wisconsin Environment is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental organization working to protect clean air, clean water, and open spaces.

[1] Jeff Inglis, Tony Dutzik, and John Rumpler, “Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and Restoring the Promise of the Clean Water Act” (Environment America Research & Policy Center, June 2014).
[2] Elizabeth Ridlington and Dan Kohler, “Wisconsin’s Lakes at Risk: The Growing Threat of Pollution from Agriculture and Development” (Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center, March 2011)

[3] “Factory Farm Nation 2015” (Food and Water Watch, 2015)

[4] Mark Dorfman and Angela Haren, “Testing the Waters” (Natural Resource Defense Council, 2015.)

[5] “Pollutants Likely to Create Green Bay’s Longest Dead Zone,” accessed October 28, 2015, http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/pollutants-likely-to-create-longest-dead-zone-yet-in-green-bay-b99473535z1-298367521.html.

[6] “Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection: Water Quality,” accessed October 28, 2015, http://datcp.wi.gov/Environment/Water_Quality/ACM_Annual_Report/2013_Annual_Report/Water_Quality/.

[7] “Tar Sands,” 350 MADISON, accessed October 16, 2015, https://350madison.wordpress.com/campaigns/tar-sands-2/.

[8] Midwest Environmental Advocates http://midwestadvocates.org/news-events/news/petition-to-epa-wisconsins-fails-to-comply-with-clean-water-act/

[9] Environment America http://www.environmentamerica.org/news/ame/court-ruling-puts-thousands-wetlands-and-streams-jeopardy

[10] “Stop the Attack on the Clean Water Rule: Protect Wisconsin’s Drinking Water” protectcleanwater.org

[11] U. Appendix A-1. Total Miles of Rivers and Streams in the Nation (n.d.): n. pag. US EPA. Web. http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/305b/upload/2000_06_28_305b_98report_appenda.pdf.

[12] Table 1: State-by-State NHD Analyses of Stream Categories and Drinking Water Data (n.d.): n. pag. Association of State Wetland Managers. Web. http://www.aswm.org/pdf_lib/state_data_request.pdf.

[13] Percentage of Surface Drinking Water from Intermittent, Ephemeral, and Headwater Streams in Wisconsin. US EPA, n.d. Web.

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