A state agency has stamped its seal of approval on the U.S. Army’s plan to install a public water system for residents near the contaminated Badger Ammunition Plant.
In a decision released late last week, the state Department of Natural Resources placed conditions on its approval that will require the Army to provide evidence of the plan’s effectiveness as it is carried out.
“If the chosen remedy is not effective, the DNR has the authority to require that the Army take additional action to address concerns at the site,” said DNR Drinking Water and Ground Water Supervisor Eileen Pierce.
The plan has been controversial because if the public water system is installed and citizens no longer drink from their private wells, the Army would be permitted to phase out its groundwater treatment system.
In nearly 70 written public comments submitted to the DNR, more than two-thirds were critical of the Army’s plan, and others took no position or requested additional information. Only one comment directly supported the Army’s proposal.
Under the plan, the Army will continue to monitor groundwater until it can show that the contaminants have naturally attenuated — or broken down — in the environment.
The former ammunition plant was active during conflicts from World War II through the Vietnam War. The Army has pumped and treated groundwater at the plant for 22 years to remove contaminants in an effort to protect nearby private wells.
Pierce said the Army will be required to reevaluate its pump and treat system and submit a report that details its effectiveness before the DNR approves any phaseout of the groundwater treatment program.
The Army now must bring municipalities near the plant together to form a sanitary district to develop the public water system, which will be paid for by the Army. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in during that process, and the municipalities are not mandated to approve the public water system.
Laura Olah, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, said she is disappointed in the Army’s decision to eliminate and reform the Badger Restoration Advisory Board, a citizen board that keeps tabs and provides input on the Army’s cleanup efforts at the plant.
“Current board members, including local government and residents who live in the path of the contamination, will have to re-apply for a position on the Army’s newly formed board,” Olah said. “Some may be booted off altogether after decades of volunteer service to the community and environmental protection.”
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org