Last night, Town of Merrimac board members unanimously passed a resolution calling on the U.S. Army to clean up groundwater contamination that is affecting private drinking water wells and is discharging into the wetlands and surface water of Lake Wisconsin at Weigand’s Bay.
The action follows the release of a new Army study showing that concentrations of the carcinogenic explosive DNT exceed state groundwater standards and that low levels of solvents may have also migrated outside Badger Army Ammunition Plant.
The primary source of the contamination is the Deterrent Burning Ground – a closed hazardous waste disposal site located in the northeast corner of Badger. In September 2009, groundwater testing at the site detected DNT at 3.8 parts per billion (ppb) which is 76 times higher than the safe drinking water advisory of 0.05 ppb.
The resolution urges the Army to “take immediate and proactive steps to assure that drinking water wells are clean and free of contaminants from Badger Army Ammunition Plant,” adding that the Army should offer “regular free water testing to all residents at and near the Weigand’s Bay area” in order to assure that families who have not been tested are included in the Army’s water monitoring program.
The town is also concerned about how the contamination could affect surface water. Weigand’s Bay is a natural fish hatchery and provides habitat for several species of wildlife that includes numerous fish and reptiles, as well as several bird species that include herons, cranes, osprey, and the American Bald Eagle, the resolution emphasizes.
“Failure by the U.S. Army to prevent and eliminate contamination in this valuable watershed jeopardizes not only the quality of life of town residents, but negatively impacts the recreational opportunities that supports the economic base of this township and surrounding communities,” the resolution concludes.
The resolution was passed in response to a request from Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, a local environmental group that has been pushing for cleanup and restoration of the ammunition plant since 1990.
The town will be asking federal and state officials to support the action by sending similar letters to the U.S. Army.