Frustrated with the lack of response from the Wisconsin DNR, rural neighbors of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant are asking the Governor to help them get clean water. Recent testing by the Army has confirmed that as many as 23 residential wells are contaminated with low levels of explosives, solvents, and other toxins that are especially dangerous to infants and children.
“No child should be exposed daily to these contaminants through drinking the water or bathing. There are solutions to finding a clean, chemical free water source,” said Lori McCoy, one of the affected homeowners and mother of three. “The DNR should be very actively involved in working toward solutions for this well documented problem versus ignoring the potential health risks for all the children in our area.”
Experts agree that the best way to protect children from potential health risks is to eliminate exposure to groundwater contaminants associated with the Badger plant.
“Children are more vulnerable than adults to environmental risks because of a number of factors: Children are constantly growing. They breathe more air, consume more food, and drink more water than adults do, in proportion to their weight,” emphasized Dr. Ann Behrmann, an area pediatrician and member of the Wisconsin Environmental Health Network. “Children’s central nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive systems are still developing. At certain early stages of development, exposure to environmental toxicants can lead to irreversible damage.”
Dr. Peter deFur, a technical advisor working with Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, agrees that avoiding exposure to the explosive dinitrotoluene (DNT) and other site contaminants is in the best interest of children’s health.
“Exposure to even low levels of DNT to children is not advised given the generally increased vulnerability of children to the effects of environmental contaminants,” said deFur. “An increased vulnerability to methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome), for example, is a great concern for both acute effects and long term developmental consequences.”
“Whenever possible, the goal to protect children should be to avoid exposure all together,” deFur concluded.
“The Army first reported low levels of explosives in residential wells almost 3 years ago. Some homes are nearly 2 miles from Badger,” said Laura Olah, a neighbor of the closing military base and director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger. “DNR officials told us that until contaminant levels go higher, they are not going to help us. In the meantime, our children are being unnecessarily exposed.”
In addition to DNT, carbon tetrachloride, chloromethane, chloroform, nitrate, and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate have been detected above Wisconsin’s Preventative Action Limits in drinking water wells near Badger. State law requires the DNR to maintain compliance with these limits and safeguard groundwater resources.
According to the U.S. EPA, chemicals such as DNT are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and skin. Potential health impacts associated with DNTs and other toxins include cancer, cardiovascular or blood toxicity, gastrointestinal or liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity.
A public meeting of the Badger Restoration Advisory Board is scheduled for Wednesday, January 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. More information, including an action alert message to Governor Doyle, is available online at http://cswab.org/safewater/actionalert1206.html or by calling