U.S. Senator Herb Kohl is questioning the Department of Defense on the Army’s recent decision to restrict the type of advice that can be offered by independent experts working with the Badger Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) – a citizen panel that represents local and tribal government and neighbors of the contaminated munitions plant.
Under the DOD-funded Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP) program, established by legislation co-sponsored by Kohl, the military service responsible for a contaminated site pays for independent technical advisers for local communities dealing with the complex technical issues involved in cleanups.
Earlier this summer, the RAB voted to apply for Army funding to hire a consultant to review an upcoming feasibility study for cleanup at one of the largest contaminated areas inside Badger Army Ammunition Plant. The study will evaluate possible remedies for a series of settling ponds located along the installation’s southern boundary. Soils in the ponds and adjacent dredge disposal sites are contaminated with high levels of lead, mercury, explosives, and other environmental toxins. The total affected area is about 60 acres.
Kohl has taken up the issue with DOD by forwarding a letter from Laura Olah, chair of the TAPP Committee and representative for Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) on the RAB. The August 23 letter questions the Army’s modification of the RAB’s application by adding language which forbids consultants from expressing professional opinions for or against the military’s chosen investigative or cleanup methods.
The RAB is concerned that residual soil contaminants could pose a risk to groundwater quality, wildlife, food crops, and grazing animals such as cattle, deer, and bison. An independent consultant will help the board identify solutions that are in the best long-term interest of public health and the environment.