Army contractors have announced that new test results have detected explosives in at least two residential wells at Weigand’s Bay in the rural township of Merrimac. This is the first time that Dinitrotoluene (DNT) has been reported in private wells near the northeast corner of Badger Army Ammunition Plant. Detected concentrations do not exceed Health Advisory Levels established by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, officials said.
The primary source of contamination is the Deterrent Burning Grounds, a hazardous waste disposal site at Badger. DNT, which is actually a mixture of 6 different forms (isomers) of the chemical, was used in the manufacture of propellants and is classified as a probable human carcinogen. Over time, DNT moved with groundwater beyond the plant boundary and has now affected nearby drinking water wells.
“For years, Merrimac residents have been asking the WDNR – including direct appeals to Secretary Frank – to take steps to protect our groundwater,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger. “We could have prevented this from happening if regulators and the Army had acted responsibly and been proactive. Now it’s too late.”
Dr. Peter deFur, a technical advisor working with CSWAB, said that avoiding exposure to DNT and other site contaminants is in the best interest of children’s health.
“Exposure to even low levels of DNT to children is not advised given the generally increased vulnerability of children to the effects of environmental contaminants,” said deFur. “An increased vulnerability to methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome), for example, is a great concern for both acute effects and long term developmental consequences.”
This is not the first time that explosives have been discovered in drinking water wells near Badger. DNT has also been detected in private wells at the Windings of Wisconsin, Water’s Edge Development, Dam Heights neighborhood, and along Keller Road in rural Prairie du Sac. The Army said it is testing the Village of Prairie du Sac municipal well and DNT has not been detected.
The test results were announced at the September 10 meeting of the Badger Restoration Advisory Board. Members include representatives of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Sauk County, Villages of Merrimac and Prairie du Sac, Merrimac and Prairie du Sac townships, CSWAB and surrounding rural neighborhoods.
“Whenever possible, the goal to protect children should be to avoid exposure all together,” deFur concluded.