After countless phone calls, emails, and meetings, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has finally agreed to CSWAB’s petition to initiate a process that will provide rural neighbors of Badger Army Ammunition Plant with safe drinking water guidelines for all forms of an explosive known as DNT.
The break-through came when CSWAB contacted top administrators within the WDNR late last week, raising concerns about the 6-month delay in a process that should have taken only a few weeks to complete. The WDNR’s Bureau of Drinking Water has drafted a letter that will be sent to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health shortly, the requisite first step in establishing drinking water advisories.
Without these health-based guidelines, affected families do not know if levels of DNT found in their drinking water are considered safe or not. They are also ineligible for bottled water from the Army, and federal funding for additional offsite investigations is largely out of reach.
Once the Division of Health receives the request from WDNR, toxicologists will begin developing interim health advisory levels for well water for 2,3-, 2,5-, 3,4-, and 3,5-DNT.
Wisconsin currently has standards for only 2 of the 6 forms (isomers) of DNT; the safe level for 2,4-DNT and 2,6-DNT is less than 0.05 micrograms per liter. If concentrations reach or exceed recommended levels, health officials recommend that people do not use the water.
DNT is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and skin. Potential health effects include cancer, methoglobinemia (“blue baby” syndrome), cardiovascular or blood toxicity, liver toxicity, kidney toxicity, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity.
In addition to DNT, carbon tetrachloride, chloromethane, chloroform, nitrate, ethyl ether, and bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate have been detected in drinking water wells near Badger. State law requires the WDNR to safeguard groundwater resources.
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) was organized in 1990 by neighbors of the closing Badger Army Ammunition Plant and is now a national leader on military toxics issues.