Army officials have ordered rural neighbors of Wisconsin’s Badger Army Ammunition Plant to suppress an environmental report by an independent consultant working with the local Restoration Advisory Board (RAB).
“Immediately following last night’s public meeting, an Army official pushed a document in front me saying that the gag order recently sent to our consultant also applies to me,” said Laura Olah, a rural neighbor of the Badger plant and chair of the committee that secured the RAB’s technical advisor. “I was also told to contact anyone who has received a copy of the report and withdraw it until the Army has first reviewed and approved it.”
The 11-page technical review, which was simultaneously provided to both the RAB and the military, is critical of an Army proposal that would allow higher levels of contamination on properties that are slated for transfer to the State of Wisconsin, Bluffview Sanitary District, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
In particular, the Army wants to designate certain areas at Badger as “industrial” which would allow the military to leave much higher levels of soil contamination than currently approved by the Wisconsin DNR. The Army wants to increase allowed levels of the carcinogenic explosive 2,6-DNT, for example, from 4.29 to 620 parts per million (ppm). Soil cleanup goals for lead would increase from 30 to 500 ppm.
“Having an independent qualified provider contributes to environmental restoration activities at the plant and will help achieve the best possible cleanup,” Olah added. “Maybe that’s what the Army is afraid of.”
The RAB’s environmental consultant was hired under a program called Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP). The federal program was established by a 1995 amendment to the Defense Authorization Act co-authored by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. The RAB conducted a national search and selected Virginia-based Environmental Stewardship Concepts (ESC) as its TAPP advisor in 2008.
RAB members who supported hiring ESC include Mary Carol Solum (At Large Member), Paul Herr (Town of Merrimac), Ken Lins (At Large Member), Mary Jane Koch (At Large Member), Michele Hopp (Village of Merrimac), Laura Olah (Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger), Charlie Wilhelm, (At Large Member), Lance Delaney (At Large Member), William T. Stehling (At Large Member), Richard Anderson (At Large Member), Ron Lins (Town of Prairie du Sac), O.J. Befera (City of Baraboo), William F. Wenzel (Village of Prairie du Sac), and Judy Ashford (Sauk County).
Since 1994, RABs have been established at over 300 installations and properties in the United States and its territories to encourage communities and installations to identify and discuss potential environmental restoration issues. TAPP funding is provided by the Department of Defense and is available to community members of the RAB at installations participating in the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.
The next meeting of the Badger RAB is scheduled for April 26 beginning at 6:30 pm at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. All RAB meetings are open to the public.