U.S. Senator Russ Feingold has asked for an investigation into potential exposures and health risks to tens of thousands of workers, their families, and other onsite personnel that may have resulted from past exposures to contaminated drinking water at Badger Army Ammunition Plant.
Feingold has taken up the issue by forwarding a September 30 letter from Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) to Howard Frumkin, Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Historical records provided by CSWAB indicate that workers and their families could have been exposed to contamination in drinking water beginning in early 1943 and continuing until as recently as 1993, when Badger’s water supply system was divided into two distinct, completely separate systems.
For more than 50 years, the potable water system at Badger was directly connected to industrial process water piping allowing for potential cross-contamination of the drinking water supply used by munitions workers and their families.
A 1992 study by Olin Corporation, the former operating contractor at the plant, documents that Badger’s drinking water supply system connected directly to a variety of industrial operations with little or no protection from potential backflow and backsiphonage. Engineers found that the drinking water system had literally hundreds of direct connections between the process water piping and production tanks and vessels separated only by gate valves.
The Army also found that high-pressure boilers did not have backflow preventers and that recycled recovered water could have discharged into the drinking water system. Drinking water lines within the acid, nitroglycerin, and rocket productions areas, which utilized large volumes of water, were similarly unprotected.
Diagrams found in public WDNR files indicate that water systems at Badger were historically connected to both Staff Village and Badger Village, raising concerns that families in these communities, like on-site workers, could have also been exposed to contamination through their drinking water.
CSWAB’s letter together with corroborative documents from the Army and WDNR are available on their website at www.cswab.org.