Local Fundraising for Independent Scientific Review Begins

For immediate release

MERRIMAC — Despite more than 300 letters and postcards and
standing-room-only attendance at the WDNR’s January 23 public meeting,
the burial of mercury-laced sediments at Badger Army Ammunition Plant
has been approved. The 8-acre landfill will be located inside Badger in
the Township of Sumpter.

CSWAB received word this week that the WDNR has approved the Army’s
requested low hazard exemption. The April 6 letter exempts the Army
from meeting even minimum design and construction criteria normally
required for hazardous waste landfills.

Unlike other hazardous waste landfills, the new landfill will have a
permeable soil cover instead of an engineered cap. The WDNR maintains
that the amount of settling expected as the sediment dewaters and
decomposes would cause a problem with a cap. However, without an
engineered cap, rainwater and melting snow will continue to migrate
through the buried sediments, carrying low levels of contaminants away
from the site.

As a result, conditions of the WDNR approval stipulate that if future
monitoring shows that an environmental problem exists at the site or
adjacent wetlands, the Department will require remediation and or
removal of the entire landfill to a monitored landfill elsewhere on the
Badger property. CSWAB maintains the mercury-contaminated sediments
should be placed in a fully regulated landfill now rather than risk a
failure in the future when it may be impractical or cost-prohibitive to
move the materials.

In anticipation of the Department’s decision, CSWAB’s board has approved
hiring a soil scientist to review the Army’s conclusions about the
long-term integrity of the burial site. Although CSWAB supports the
dredging of the bay itself, the community-led board has serious concerns
about the potential future impact 30,000 cubic yards of buried
mercury-contaminated sediments may have on the environment.

In order to minimize potential risks, the WDNR approval relies heavily
on deed and future use restrictions. Future cultivation or excavation
of the site will be prohibited. If animal damage, vandalism, or other
activities disturb soil cover or vegetation, the Army may be required to
fence the entire site.

The contaminated sediments containing high levels of mercury, lead,
copper, zinc, and nitrogen were generated mainly during World War II
and the Korean conflict as a by-product of ammunition manufacture at
Badger Army Ammunition Plant. During active production years,
industrial wastewater was discharged from Badger through a series of
settling ponds inside the plant and ultimately to Gruber’s Grove Bay, an
embayment of Lake Wisconsin north of Prairie du Sac. The dredging
project is scheduled to begin later this month.

“We need the community’s help to keep the pressure on,” said CSWAB’s
Executive Director Laura Olah. “Funding will help us push for a better
solution and better long term protection of the environment.”