Preliminary test results show that another 7 drinking water wells serving dozens of homes south of Badger Army Ammunition Plant – located on Keller Road, the “Windings” subdivision, and near the intersections of County Z and 78, and Dam Road and Highway 78 – may have dinitrotoluene (DNT) contamination. DNT is a cancer-causing chemical used in the manufacture of munitions. One well may have low levels of chloroform. Army officials said that initial test results were all below health standards but will be providing bottled water to around 40 homes as a precaution. More tests will be needed to confirm the findings, the Army said.
The recent water testing follows the discovery of unsafe levels of DNT in two private wells just south of Badger in February. While it is clear that Badger is the source of the groundwater problems, the exact location of the contaminant source or sources inside the plant is still unknown. The affected homes are located more than 500 feet from a plume of contaminated groundwater flowing from Badger south to the Wisconsin River. Finding DNT this far east is inconsistent with the known plume location.
Army officials acknowledge that it is possible that another area inside Badger could be a contributing source. The Settling Ponds – a 60-acre waste disposal site that stretches across the entire width of the plant – is an example of a potential source of contamination in the environment.
Army officials report that some areas inside Badger contain primarily shallow monitoring wells leaving what they described as a “significant gap” in information about water quality in deeper aquifers.
Nitrates were also detected above the safe drinking water standard in several private wells north of Prairie du Sac. High nitrate levels pose a risk to infants as it interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Common sources of nitrate contamination in the environment include fertilizers, animal wastes, and septic tanks. Badger is also a potential source of nitrates in groundwater.
Ongoing testing of private wells and nearby municipal wells will be critical. Given the very low drinking water standard for DNT (0.05 parts per billion) even a very small change in concentration can be significant in terms of public health. CSWAB will continue to meet with residents to get a better understanding of their needs and concerns in the coming weeks and months.
Test results for other areas near Badger, including Gruber’s Grove Bay, are still pending.
According to Army officials, the Prairie du Sac municipal well is routinely tested for DNT and other groundwater contaminants from Badger. To date, the Army has not detected contaminants above the drinking water standard in the Prairie du Sac well. The Army will be compiling historical data for this well to determine if trace levels, below the drinking water standard, have been previously detected.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has also agreed to our request that the Bluffview drinking water well, just west of Badger, also be tested for DNT. The Army will collect a drinking water sample within the next month.
WDNR officials said that the Bluffview well, which serves over 600 residents, has not been tested for Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) since 2000. According to the WDNR, Bluffview will be required to test for VOCs in September 2004. CSWAB has requested that this timeline be moved up as a precaution. Unsafe levels of VOCs (including benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, and trichloroethylene) have been detected nearby in groundwater at Badger.
CSWAB’s Role in Securing Testing.
Two months ago, on February 5, the Army confirmed that unsafe levels of DNT had been detected in two private wells located just south of the plant on Keller Road. CSWAB immediately issued a public statement demanding that testing of private wells be expanded to include all homes south and east of the property. CSWAB was convinced other wells were also at risk.
The WDNR and EPA refused to budge, saying they did not see the need to expand the private well sampling effort. CSWAB stepped up the pressure and initiated a concerted campaign – including dozens of phone calls, emails, editorials, press releases, and public meetings – in support of testing for all private wells located from the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center to the Village of Prairie du Sac.
A month later, on March 3, the WDNR finally asked the Army to expand the sampling program in the area requested by CSWAB. The wells were sampled for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), dinitrotoluene and other semivolatiles, and nitrates. Wells adjacent to Gruber’s Grove Bay were also sampled for ammonia. The recent findings were a direct result of this expanded testing.
CSWAB has been asking the EPA and DNR for additional offsite study since 1998.
Contact Steve Ales, WDNR Hydrogeologist, at (608) 275-3310 regarding the sampling program. Health-related questions should be directed to Henry Nehls-Lowe, Wisconsin Division of Health, at (608) 266-3479. Also visit our website at www.cswab.org for updates and more