Nancy Utesch: DNR’s low-key response to Kewaunee’s water crisis not nearly enough

Nancy Utesch: DNR’s low-key response to Kewaunee’s water crisis not nearly enough.
The Department of Natural Resources’ recent low-key roll-out of help for Kewaunee County residents dealing with contamination so great that they cannot drink nor should they bathe in their water highlights the DNR’s continued failures, lack of integrity, and continued lack of urgency in responding to Kewaunee’s health and water crisis.
Our animal numbers have surpassed the 98,000 mark, while our human population is roughly 20,500.
This burgeoning problem, akin to pouring gasoline on the fire, is rarely discussed — nor is the reality that we can no longer shoulder the burdens of the intensive farming taking place where we live and the resulting water contamination, human health threats, plunging property values, and severe quality of life issues that are as widespread as our growing water contamination rates.
Walker and industry interests make silver-bullet promises of fertilizer plants, biogas plants, digester cures and more remedies — but don’t discuss actually curtailing the addition of more cows in our county and the massive contaminating waste that’s generated.
Initiatives by local farmers addressing conservation practices are slowly being implemented, but lack of DNR oversight and enforcement of CAFOs continues to be a major problem, and safeguards such as herd caps and in-ground monitoring wells at lagoon sites and spreading fields continue to be contested in court.
Make no mistake, citizens and various attorneys, including Midwest Environmental Advocates, have done the heavy lifting on the manure situation in Kewaunee.
On the latest research findings, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Mark Borchardt stated: “We have never seen this level of contamination before.” Work groups engaged stakeholders for over a year, formulating recommendations for addressing the problems that plague our community and its water, only to have Gov.
Scott Walker gut the recommendations after meeting with industry interests, with the Dairy Business Association claiming rule revisions would make dairy farmers scapegoats.
Nancy Utesch is a farmer from Kewaunee and a petitioner of the Safe Drinking Water Act, filed to the EPA in October 2014, about Kewaunee’s water crisis.

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