Neighbors Ask Attorney General to Stop Open Burning: Analysis Shows Air Emissions Will Exceed Safe Standards

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Nearby residents today asked Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager to take legal action to stop a plan to open burn approximately 100 buildings at Badger Army Ammunition Plant.

On behalf of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), attorneys with Midwest Environmental Advocates have requested the action based on new findings that the calculations used in the WDNR’s approval are flawed.  A technical consultant hired by the groups found that the proposed open burning of explosives-contaminated buildings will exceed air quality standards.

The WDNR’s air modeling approach contains a significant error,” said Charles J. Gantzer, Ph.D.  “The WDNR’s approach assumed a heat content of wood that is 16 times higher than the actual heat content of wood.  When the correct heat content is used, the estimated inhalable particulate concentrations are 2.7 times above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”

This is the second time the WDNR’s air emissions projections were in error.  Gantzer analyzed a previous study and found the WDNR had underestimated particulate emissions by a factor of 5.

“The proposed open burning will violate Wisconsin law which requires open burning to be conducted in a pollution free manner,” said Attorney Melissa Scanlan. “The Attorney General can take action to abate or prevent a nuisance from occurring, including a violation of state law.”

“I live next to the plant and have three children,” explained Laura Olah, Executive Director of CSWAB.  “Families in our community have already been exposed to pollution in their drinking water, mercury contamination in the river, and toxic air emissions produced when Badger was operating. We’ve had enough.  The Army must be required to comply with the law just like everybody else.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, the small particles in wood smoke can worsen heart conditions by preventing oxygen from reaching tissues.  Breathing difficulties such as asthma may increase in adults or children if they breathe too much smoke.  Other health problems aggravated by burning include lung infections such as acute pneumonia and bronchiolitis.  Allergies can also be worsened.

“During open burning materials are changed from a solid form and are released to the atmosphere where they are deposited over a large area resulting in contamination of soil and surface water,” Olah said.  “Airborne vapors and dust generated during burning are not only a risk to nearby residents, they are also a risk to workers, area farmers, and other people that lease property inside Badger.”

Other organizations that have formally opposed open burning at Badger include Citizens Natural Resources Association of Wisconsin, Clean Water Action Council of Wisconsin, Concerned Citizens of Newport, Families and Friends for Social Responsibility, Glenview Prairie Preservation Project, Interfaith Justice and Peace, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Midwest Treaty Network, Peace Action Wisconsin, Madison Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rock Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation, Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG), and the Wolf Watershed Educational Project.

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