Apr 3, 2016

Wisconsin Sends SOS Re Safe Water

Mary Dougherty of Bayfield, Wisconsin works with a group,
Citizens Concerned about Lake Superior CAFOs,
fighting the siting of a massive industrialized factory farm
in far-northern Wisconsin.
Clean water activists in Wisconsin continue asking the EPA for help as they face a hostile Republican state government helping polluters pollute.

Drinking water in the country's 160,000 public drinking water systems to the private water wells serving rural regions are under assault.

Wisconsin citizens are working to protect Wisconsin's abundant fresh waters, (U.S. DHS, Mal Contends, Orlando, In These Times, Water Watch Wisconsin, Kewaunee Cares, Tri-Lakes Management District, Protect Wood County and Its Neighbors, Citizens Concerned about Lake Superior CAFOs, Farms Not Factories).

The many other citizen groups are too numerous to list.

Appeals to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources fall on deaf ears.

Last year the DNR's "eliminated ... the agency's crucial water division," a fact known but not acknowledged at a March 31 event in northeastern Wisconsin attended by two Republican state representatives pretending to a concern about clean water for their political survival—State Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) and State Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay).

"Krug and Kitchens refused to acknowledge that there is no will at the DNR to do anything to protect clean water now that Scott Walker has eviscerated the scientific staff and refused to allow the DNR to do its job. The general consensus at the (March 31) Friends of Crescent Beach event was that Krug and Kitchens have no regard for surface water or aquifers just like the rest of Wisconsin Republicans and were just putting on a PR show," said an event attendee living in Door County.

Facing a hostile DNR, clean water activists representing citizens in Kewaunee County in northeastern Wisconsin—where some one-third of residents have private water wells unsuitable to use as drinking water, tests revealed—have made several appeals to the EPA:

"After a year of talks, Kewaunee County residents are still waiting for local solutions to this continued drinking water crisis," said Lynn Utesch, member of Kewaunee CARES and EPA petitioner. "We need the EPA to know that local residents are still facing unreasonable delays in drinking water contamination test results. The DNR or EPA did not provide safe drinking water in the fall of 2014, however citizen efforts and donations supported a clean drinking water kiosk for residents with contaminated wells. Now that the kiosk has been vandalized and shut down, residents are again out of options."

A clean water kiosk is a place where residents can obtain jugs of clean water, (Ebert Yancey, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin).

Where is the EPA?

Laura Orlando at In These Times magazine has a piece out asking the same question:

Where is the EPA in all of this? Eviscerated. It started when Reagan took office in 1981 and appointed Anne Gorsuch, a Colorado state representative who vocally opposed federal regulation of energy and the environment, as administrator. She cut the budget by 22 percent, hired people representing industry while firing long-time EPA staff, relaxed existing regulations and resisted new ones. She was cited for contempt of Congress in her involvement in the misuse of over a billion dollars in Superfund money. Her deputy, Rita Lavelle, went to jail over the scandal. The agency has been under assault by industry-friendly Democrats and Republicans ever since.

Current drinking water regulation has little to do with the realities of what is actually in our drinking water. Like all chemical regulation in the United States, regulatory responses happen—if at all—decades after health threats are documented. Regulators turn a blind eye to problems that can only be remedied through radical changes in how we do things (for example, where we source our drinking water or how we grow our food). As a result, drinking water regulations are inadequate, and those on the books are not being competently monitored or properly enforced. 
Knowing Republican candidates for the presidency are actually calling for the elimination of the EPA: To Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Wisconsin's clean water citizen activists are sending a SOS from their homes, Save Our Water.

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