Clean Wisconsin, dozens of citizens, are granted hearing after calling for action

MADISON — The Wisconsin Department of Natural resources is granting a public hearing for April 15 after the widespread call for action over dangerously high nitrate levels in the groundwater near a Central Wisconsin dairy farm. Clean Wisconsin joined more than 40 concerned citizens requesting the hearing to advocate for cleaner water.

“Groundwater quality regulations are on the books for a reason, to protect citizens from exposure to dangerous pollutants like nitrates in our drinking water,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “With undeniable public health issues tied to nitrate contamination, this is about not only accountability but responsibility.”

The dairy in question, Burr Oak Heifers in Richfield, has been required to pay $65,000 for past groundwater contamination under a 2013 Justice Department ruling. However, groundwater at the site remains contaminated. Instead of requiring Burr Oaks Dairy to clean up its mess, DNR proposes to allow nitrate concentrations at the site that are nearly three times higher than the 10 milligram per liter public health standard. The EPA specifies that infants who consume water in excess of the 10 milligram concentration could become short of breath, seriously ill, or suffer blue baby syndrome, a circulatory ailment that in some cases is fatal.

“It’s shocking to think, especially given all we know about the dangers of nitrate contamination, that allowing more pollution is even considered an option,” Wheeler said. “This operation needs to get serious about solutions, not exemptions.”