New Groundwater Wells Will Track Explosive

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In response to increasing concentrations of explosives in groundwater, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Army have agreed to install additional groundwater monitoring wells at the northeast corner of Badger Army Ammunition Plant in the rural township of Merrimac.

The contaminant of concern is the explosive dinitrotoluene (DNT), a compound that was used in the production of gun powder and rocket fuel.  DNT can affect the blood, nervous system, liver, kidneys, and male reproductive system in both humans and animals, and is a suspected human carcinogen.

Suspected sources of the groundwater contamination are the Deterrent Burning Grounds, a former dumping and burning site that received as much as 500 gallons per week of waste chemicals containing high concentrations of DNT, and a closed 15-acre landfill which was utilized primarily for the disposal of non-hazardous wastes beginning in the 1960’s.

Monitoring wells located at these hazardous waste sites and along the plant boundary indicate increasing trends in groundwater contaminant levels.  The Army has tested a number of private drinking water wells in the adjacent Weigand’s Bay area and so far DNT has not been detected in any of these wells.

Regulators and the Army have agreed on a plan to install additional groundwater monitoring wells in and around the northeast corner of the plant.  The monitoring wells will provide additional information about groundwater quality and movement in the area.

The first step will be the installation of 2 deeper groundwater monitoring wells at the plant boundary near Weigand’s Bay North Road.  The new wells will be installed adjacent to an existing shallower monitoring well which continues to detect low levels of DNT.  The Army said it hopes to have these wells installed before the end of April.  Additional monitoring wells are proposed for inside Badger and near rural homes in the Weigand’s Bay area soon after.

In a related matter, CSWAB has asked the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to require improved test methods for private drinking water wells.  The community-based group wants testing to include harmful chemicals that are formed when DNT degrades.  The WDNR said that it is currently considering CSWAB’s request and is hoping to have a definitive response in time for the next public meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board planned for April 9 at 6:30 pm at Badger.

Since 1990, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) has served as community watchdog for the restoration of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant – expected to be most expensive cleanup in Wisconsin history.  The organization and has gone on to receive national recognition for its work and is now supporting other communities across the country battling military toxins.  For more information, contact CSWAB at (608)643-3124 or by email at info@cswab.org.

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