CSWAB Action Alert: State Officials Ignoring Potential Mercury Emissions from Badger

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For more than two years, CSWAB has been asking state officials to investigate a WDNR report that levels of mercury in the air near Badger Army Ammunition Plant may be elevated.  Technical experts agree that more can be done to identify and mitigate potential sources of mercury emissions such as the planned dredging of Gruber’s Grove Bay this summer.

According to Dr. Jerry Eykholt, an environmental engineer hired by the Badger Restoration Advisory Board, tests can be conducted to see if disturbed or aerated sediment could release appreciable amounts of mercury or other contaminants to the air.  If the risks are determined to be significant, this could delay or stop dredging until further review is done.

Air monitoring during dredging projects is not uncommon, Eykholt added.  The WNDR requires air monitoring for PCBs as part of the cleanup on the Fox River, for example.

While Eykholt does not expect that mercury releases to the air will be significant, dredging activities can be conducted in a way to greatly minimize volatile releases.  Dredgers can adjust pumping rates and other settings to reduce the release.  Limiting mercury vapors is important because exposure to unsafe levels can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus.

Eykholt also cautions that bay cleanup activities are not the only potential source of mercury air emissions from Badger.  Other potential sources, which may prove to be more significant than the bay cleanup, include waste disposal sites and old equipment elsewhere on the plant property.

Aerial view of the geotextile tube laydown area and lagoon for dewatering mercury contaminated sediments at Badger Army Ammunition Plant in 2001.  U.S. Army photograph.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Community members can help by contacting the WDNR and expressing support for eliminating potential sources of mercury emissions at Badger and Gruber’s Grove Bay on Lake Wisconsin.

The WDNR contact is: Steve Ales, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, WI 53711, telephone (608)275-3310, or email Stephen.Ales@dnr.state.wi.us.

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear Mr. Ales,

I am writing to encourage the WDNR to take immediate steps to identify and eliminate potential sources of mercury emissions from Badger Army Ammunition Plant and Gruber’s Grove Bay.  Every effort should be made to assure that residents and workers are not exposed to mercury in their environment.  I look forward to hearing from your office and your plans in this regard.

(your name and address)

Your email or letter to the WDNR is important!  Unless there is a strong public response, we are very concerned that state health and regulatory officials will continue to ignore this serious health concern.

Aerial view of the geotextile tube laydown area and lagoon for dewatering mercury contaminated sediments at Badger Army Ammunition Plant in 2001. U.S. Army photograph.

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