Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin waters face pollution

Wisconsin factories and municipal treatment facilities exceeded their water pollution permit limits 43 percent of the time, according to a study released last week.

The report, prepared by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group [WISPIRG], characterized Wisconsin waters as a "dumping ground" for waste.

According to WISPIRG State Director Jennifer Giegerich, this means roughly 40 percent of the state's waters are "unsafe" for fishing or swimming.


"[The study] points out that there is a lot more that needs to be done to clean up our waters," Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said.

The state Department of Natural Resources [DNR] meanwhile said while the study is informative, it needs to be taken in context.

"We don't like any exceedances, but sometimes there are equipment malfunctions or human errors or things beyond the control of people," Russ Rasmussen, director of the DNR Bureau of Watershed Management, said.

"When you look at the actual data, there were many instances where we are talking very minimal exceedances," he added.

Rasmussen stressed that, while waste is not being "wholesale dumped" into the environment, any exceedance should be taken seriously.

However, he noted that they "have much bigger problems from agricultural runoff and runoff out of city streets."

Even though the DNR argues more urgent environmental concerns may exist, Giegerich maintains that the findings of this study warrant attention.

Giegerich said WISPIRG offers several suggestions to improve Wisconsin's environment, most of which involve stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Specifically, Giegerich mentioned the Clean Water Act, which is a federal statute that protects surface water quality in the United States.

The act ultimately aims to reduce pollutant discharges into waterways, provide finances for municipal treatment facilities and manage pollutant runoff.

"Our bottom line is that the Clean Water Act is a perfectly great piece of legislation, if it is enforced," Giegerich said. "And to do that you need the financial resources."

Giegerich expressed concern regarding President George W. Bush's 2007 budget, as he said it slashes funds that help environmental agencies.

WISPIRG is asking the U.S. Congress and the current administration to restore that money, Giegerich added.

"We are calling on the Bush administration to pull back on their efforts to take away clean water protections from the waters within the country," Giegerich said.

Black expressed agreement with WISPIRG's assessment.

"I think we have to have stricter enforcement," Black said. "The DNR staff has been cut back substantially, which has hindered anti-pollution efforts."

The laws currently in place need to be enforced, he added, which he said is one of the important facts that the study shows.

In order to obtain information about pollution levels, WISPIRG filed a freedom of information request with the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency's database contains information regarding all exceedances of factories and treatment facilities with clean water permits.

The study was conducted during an 18-month period between 2003 and 2004.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *