A coalition of 31 organizations is urging the U.S. Army to seek an alternative to open burning old buildings at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. This approach, the groups maintain, places the environment and human health at risk. As many as 100 buildings are being considered for open burning.
“Open burning produces harmful combustion products from electrical materials, preservative coatings on equipment, paints, plastics, and other construction materials,” said Bruce Barrett, a physician and member of Madison Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Open burning of explosive-contaminated structures produces toxic emissions including nitrous oxide, lead vapors, and dioxins.”
Badger Army Ammunition Plant, located at the base of the Baraboo Hills and Devil’s Lake State Park, is being decommissioned. The U.S. Army is discussing open burning as a means to decontaminate sensitive buildings where nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose are present in raw form or have permeated wooden structural members. The groups are very concerned about the potential environmental, ecological, and human health risks of burning these buildings.
“During open burning materials are changed from a solid form and are released to the atmosphere where they are deposited over a large area resulting in contamination of soil and surface water,” said Liz Wessel, Executive Director of Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade. “Airborne vapors and dust generated during burning are not only a risk to nearby residents, they are also a risk to workers, area farmers, and other people that lease property inside Badger.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, the small particles in wood smoke can worsen heart conditions by preventing oxygen from reaching tissues. Breathing difficulties such as asthma may increase in adults or children if they breathe too much smoke. Other health problems aggravated by burning include lung infections such as acute pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Allergies can be worsened, WDHFS said.
“Cleaning up the Badger Army Ammunition Plant is already a difficult situation given all the years of exposure both onsite and in the community to the hazardous chemicals and waste from decades of explosives manufacturing,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger. “Additional contamination is only going to make a bad situation worse.”
Other organizations that signed the letter include Citizens Natural Resources Association of Wisconsin, Clean Water Action Council of Wisconsin, Concerned Citizens of Newport, Families and Friends for Social Responsibility, Glenview Prairie Preservation Project, Interfaith Justice and Peace, Midwest Environmental Advocates, Midwest Treaty Network, Peace Action Wisconsin, Madison Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rock Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation, Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG), and the Wolf Watershed Educational Project.