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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


With 75 problems in Wisconsin water program, advocates look for pollution solutions

EPA said state’s water management had variety of issues
Flickr user Images by John ‘K’

Environmental advocates pointed to a number of problems with Wisconsin water in light of the EPA’s identification of 75 deficiencies with the state’s water program.

Amber Meyer Smith, Clean Water Wisconsin spokesperson, said the Department of Natural Resources has been working, to some degree, to fix these issues, but Wisconsin has a significant amount of water pollution that needs to be addressed.

“Drinking water in Kewaunee County, for instance — 30 percent of drinking wells there are contaminated,” Smith said. “In Southeastern Wisconsin, there is well contamination that is so bad that people have been drinking bottled water for years.”


According to the DNR’s website, Wisconsin’s water is in good shape with 95.5 percent of systems meeting health-based standards.

But, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said in a statement that Wisconsin’s water is at risk of becoming as bad as Michigan’s water, which has been contaminated with lead.

Dane County residents donate 30,000 pounds of drinking water to Flint, Michigan

Smith said part of the problem is that Wisconsin has relaxed standards on testing drinking water in communities, and the state needs to do a better job tackling the issue of pollution runoff. 

She said stakeholders need to work together to do more to address this issue.

“I think that we really need to have the highest level of accountability for clean water in Wisconsin, and that means holding water utilities, the DNR, all levels of government and operators of our water to the highest accountability possible,” Smith said.

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters said in the statement many people in Wisconsin could be at risk from contaminants found in both private wells and municipal water systems. Many Wisconsinites use municipal systems that are no longer legally required to be disinfected.

A water privatization bill that aims to make it easier for private, non-profit and out-of-state companies to own Wisconsin Water Utilities has also come under scrutiny, Smith said.

In a press release on the bill, Kerry Schumann, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters executive director, said they do not see the bill as beneficial for water systems in Wisconsin. The privatization of the system will make it harder to get answers and communicate with the companies.

“Access to clean drinking water and effective sewer systems is a fundamental necessity, and should be open to public scrutiny,” Schumann said in the statement. “Wisconsin should be investing in these public systems to ensure they are in good repair and provide clean water to our citizens, not selling them off to the lowest bidder.”

Smith said there are some major concerns about water privatization because it is proven to lead to a higher rate of environmental violations.

But, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said in a statement the bill would increase competition which would be better for Wisconsin taxpayers.

“I signed onto the bill as a co-sponsor because it could create more competition in the event a municipality operating a water utility would decide to sell the utility,” Sanfelippo said in the statement. “More competitors should translate into higher bids and thus a better deal for taxpayers.” 

There is one Democrat supporting the bill, but it has mostly Republican support.

Smith said water needs to be valued as a precious resource by all people in the state.

“We need to really focus on how we can protect this basic right to clean and safe drinking water,” Smith said.

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