Settling PondsLand uses that will disturb vegetation and allow direct contact with contaminated soils should be avoided in certain areas of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, according to public Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) records obtained by Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger.

In November of 2009, the Army asked the DNR – the state regulatory agency overseeing cleanup at Badger Army Ammunition Plant – to consider a proposal to reduce soil cleanup goals for the 166-acre Parcel M1 which was slated for transfer to the State of Wisconsin. The proposed changes were significant, increasing allowed levels of the carcinogenic explosive 2,6-DNT from 4.29 to 620 mg/kg, for example. Soil cleanup goals for lead would increase from 30 to 500 mg/kg.

As allowed under Wisconsin’s soil cleanup rules, the U.S. Army integrated anticipated future land use in calculating risk for direct contact (exposure through inhalation, ingestion and dermal exposure) for many of the contaminated sites at Badger.

For the land parcels slated for transfer to the State of Wisconsin, the Army relied on the DNR’s application to the National Park Service (Federal Lands to Parks Program) which documents anticipated land use after transfer through the U.S. General Services Administration.

The DNR’s application, which was approved by the National Park Service in August of 2004, stipulated that the State would use the site primarily for conservation and recreation. Activities would include hiking, picnicking, primitive camping, Lake Wisconsin access viewing, prairie, savanna and grassland restoration, environmental education and cultural/historical interpretation.

In a July 29, 2010 internal communication DNR staff wrote: “I’m sure that some shallow contaminated soil will remain in the Settling Ponds, Final Creek, and the Spoils Disposal Areas…Although the number of days of use assumed for recreational use in contaminant exposure calculations is around 75 and the Army is proposing to use 77 days, there will still be land uses that would be good to avoid. It is hard to imagine the Settling Ponds and Final Creek being used extensively for any designated activity as part of the Sauk Prairie Recreational Area, although I’m guessing that a hiking trail might be acceptable, for example, but more intensive uses such as a campground or an ATV trail where the vegetation would be removed should be avoided.”

The National Park Service is currently reviewing the draft land use plan for Sauk Prairie Recreation Area, including Parcel M1 which contains former Settling Ponds 2 and 3, a portion of Settling Pond 4, and Spoils Disposal Areas I, II, III, IV and V. Residual soil contaminants include the explosive DNT, nitroglycerine, mercury, lead, aluminum and others. Site closure, with the Army’s requested changes in cleanup, was granted by the DNR on June 11, 2014.

Map and more details here:  Fact Sheet Cleanup and Land Use FINAL 2015

DNR Open Records Emails RE Cleanup Levels and Future Use at Badger