Skol: DNR bears responsibility for water

After Gretchen and I built our home in the town of Onalaska some 26 years ago, we learned, to our surprise, that the town was embroiled in a dispute with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on how to deal with water pollution from a town landfill on Brice Prairie.
The landfill had been dug close to the Black River decades earlier and residues from discarded solvents and pesticides — included in the trash that filled the pit before it was closed — seeped through the porous soils into the groundwater.
Eventually the landfill was declared a Superfund site and all of the landowners in the town paid a surcharge (we paid $200 a year for 10 years) on our tax bills to pay our share of the cleanup costs.
This news came to some 2,000 property owners in the western part of the towns of Onalaska and Holland who depend on private wells for their water in the form of a warning from the La Crosse County Health Department.
Nitrate and coliform contamination can be caused by malfunctioning septic systems, manure and human waste spreading and excess fertilizer use.
Both nitrate and coliform contamination constitute a human health risk at levels in excess of levels set as safe by regulators.
The warning was triggered after the county received data it demanded from the DNR last August following the report by the Legislative Audit Bureau critical of DNR’s enforcement of pollution discharge permits.
Why, the county is left to wonder, didn’t the DNR alert the county and the home owners of the risk?
Without the aggressive county response to the audit, we’d still be in the dark about the risk.
DNR bears much of the responsibility for fixing Wisconsin’s water issues.

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