Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) has completed a review of recently-released environmental reports by the U.S. Army at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. Army testing indicates that groundwater quality is improving in certain areas in and around the former munitions site and is showing persistent or new problems in others. We have published a series of new groundwater quality maps showing these areas. They are posted at end of this update.
Residential Wells near Badger
Of the 69 residential wells tested by the U.S. Army in 2013, no exceedances of the health-based Wisconsin Groundwater Enforcement Standard (ES) were reported. Low levels of the explosive dinitrotoluene (DNT), below the ES, were detected in several residential wells located southeast of the plant near Gruber’s Grove Bay. Health officials said that these private wells are considered safe to use.
Propellant Burning Grounds at Badger
Reported concentrations of DNT in certain areas inside Badger are considerably lower than previous years. The Army reported maximum concentrations of total DNT in groundwater at the Propellant Burning Grounds near U.S. Highway 12 as high as 3.69 parts per billion (ppb) in 2013, compared to concentrations as high as 2,223.3 ppb in March 2010. However, current levels are still more than 70 times higher than the safe drinking water threshold of only 0.05 ppb. In 2013, maximum total DNT levels in groundwater north of the Village of Prairie du Sac were reported at 0.102 ppb.
Village of Prairie du Sac
The U.S. Army currently tests the Village of Prairie du Sac Well Municipal Well #3 on an annual basis for some of the groundwater contaminants associated with Badger. However, CSWAB found that while the Army currently tests Well #3 for all six forms of the explosive DNT, it does not test for any of the 24 degradation (breakdown) products of DNT identified by state regulators. CSWAB has long-recommended this testing and met with Village officials in March to discuss its concerns. The Army regularly tests Village Well #3 for DNT and reports that it has never been detected.
Army testing in 2013 showed that levels of the solvent carbon tetrachloride in groundwater north of the Village of Prairie du Sac are consistently above the ES. Concentrations of carbon tetrachloride were detected as high as 44.6 ppb, well above the health-based ES of 5 ppb. The Army regularly tests Village Well #3 for carbon tetrachloride and reports that it has never been detected.
Town of Merrimac
In 2013, maximum total DNT levels inside the northeast corner of Badger in the Town of Merrimac were as high as 7.27 ppb, well above the ES of only 0.05 ppb. This summer, total DNT was detected above the ES in groundwater near the new demolition landfill at Badger, also in the Town of Merrimac. No ES exceedances were reported outside the plant boundary in the township.
Town of Sumpter
At the northwest section of Badger in the Town of Sumpter, groundwater testing by the U.S. Army in May 2014 detected elevated levels of DNT in monitoring wells located on land slated for transfer to the Ho-Chunk Nation. Detected levels ranged from 0.05 to 0.126 ppb, meeting or exceeding the groundwater standard of 0.05 ppb for total DNT. The detections are not associated with any of the three known groundwater contaminant plumes emanating from Badger.
Other exceedances not associated with the three known plumes include ethyl ether. In 2013, the solvent was detected in groundwater at the southern plant boundary at concentrations as high as 7,690 ppb, exceeding the ES of 1,000 ppb. If the newly-detected plume of ethyl ether follows the same path as the other groundwater contaminants, the WDNR has stated that nearby private drinking water wells should not be in the immediate path of the plume. CSWAB has recommended that nearby residential wells be tested more frequently until this new plume and its source are defined.