New Highway Will Plow Through Contaminated Army Site

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Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) is challenging a plan to allow road construction through a highly contaminated area at Badger Army Ammunition Plant.  The Army is seeking permission from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) to leave elevated levels of soil contaminants in an area that will be “highly disturbed” by earthmoving activities for realignment of U.S. Highway 78.  Any residual contamination in and around the project area, Army officials said, will ultimately be the responsibility of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Road construction planned for 2009 will plow through a now-dry settling pond located along the southern boundary of Badger.  During active production years, a series of four ponds received sanitary and industrial wastewater and runoff from the nitroglycerine, rocket paste, and propellant storage (magazine) areas.  As a result, soils are contaminated with high levels of arsenic, mercury, explosives, and other military toxins.

The Army said that the road alignment will go through the final pond, also known as Settling Pond #4.  The pond is about 6 acres in size and historically emptied into Lake Wisconsin at Gruber’s Grove Bay after crossing a small parcel of land owned by Wisconsin Power & Light.

In its August 18 letter to the WDNR, the Army asks for approval of a plan to only clean up localized “hot spots” of lead where concentrations exceed 250 parts per millions (ppm).  The Army has already started stabilizing and removing these limited areas.  WDNR officials said, however, that the 250 ppm threshold only applies if lead is the only contaminant and the Army has identified more than 20 soil contaminants at the site.

The Army’s plans specifically challenge soil cleanup goals previously approved by both the WDNR and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Proposed changes include increasing the safe threshold for the carcinogenic explosive 2,4-DNT in soils from 2.5 to 120 ppm.  Similar concessions are sought for diphenylamine (from 3.5 to 1,500 ppm), tin (from 10 to 47,000 ppm), diethyl phthalate (from 20 to 49,000 ppm), and other contaminants.

Sediment contamination in the adjacent Gruber’s Grove Bay is also a concern because the WDNR wants part of the bay dredged to create a wetland area.  Despite previous cleanup efforts by the Army, recent testing by the WDNR found that mercury concentrations in sediments exceed the approved cleanup goal.   The majority of samples (6 out 8) failed to meet the cleanup goal of 0.36 ppm.  The highest concentration found was 9.0 ppm, making it one of the worst mercury-contaminated sites in the state.

CSWAB has contacted the Federal Highway Administration, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Power & Light, and local government to help push for thorough site cleanup before road and utility work begins.  A decision from the WDNR is currently pending.

Maps – Hwy 78 Realignment Details

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