Thursday, January 3, 2019

Oh, NOW the WisGOPs care about the dirty water their policies led to?

Let's go into this bit of shocking (but all-too-common) news from yesterday, courtesy of Steven Verburg of the Wisconsin State Journal.
The first systematic study of well water in southwest Wisconsin found bacterial and chemical contamination at rates as bad as — and possibly worse than — areas targeted by new state water protection rules.

Some 42 percent of 301 randomly selected wells tested in Iowa, Grant and Lafayette counties exceed federal health standards for bacteria that can come from animal or human waste, or for a toxic fertilizer residue.
Well that’s not good, and even worse is that Scott Walker’s DNR didn’t want to even find out if the well water was safe.
The three counties agreed to pay for the initial stage of the study.

Gov. Scott Walker in 2018 approved stricter standards for disposal of manure in 15 eastern Wisconsin counties that have vulnerable groundwater. Conservation groups argued similar conditions exist in southwest Wisconsin, but that region isn’t covered by the new standards.

Walker’s DNR declined to participate in the three-county study, said Scott Laeser, water program director for the nonprofit Clean Wisconsin, which helped coordinate funding. A DNR spokesman declined to comment.
What also looks bad is that this area just re-elected the same Republicans that have had no problem looking the other way on mega-farms and other rural pollutants as long as the Big Ag donations keep coming in. That includes Senator Howard Marklein, who was the only Republican senator to win a district won by Tony Evers, and ran ads like this touting his “independence” and ability to fund services in the sane part if the state where the contamination was found.

With a literal mess on their hands, 2 Republican Assembly members from Marklein's district decided now was the time to care about drinking water.
Representatives Travis Tranel and Todd Novak released the following joint statement after the initial results of a three county groundwater study that included Grant, Lafayette, and Iowa counties were released:

“We hope we can agree that we all want and deserve safe, clean and healthy groundwater for everyone. To that end, we are calling on Speaker Vos to form a Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality.

“It is important to realize this is just the first step of a very long process. Without an established baseline to know where levels have been historically, it is important we don’t jump to any conclusions too quickly.
Oh no! We wouldn’t want to overreact to 2/5 of the area’s wells having undrinkable water due to GOP deregulation, would we?

Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos, who has actively promoted every Koch-ALEC move to allow Big Ag to have its way with the land, put his finger to the wind and also joined the ranks of the recently concerned.

You hear that, all of you that have tainted wells? Just sit back for a few weeks as we get our group together. No worries, right?

Let’s not forget that Vos and fellow GOP lowlife Scott Fitzgerald helped to engineer a Power Grab 1 month ago that makes the Legislature have to sign off any new rules the administration of Tony Evers might put in. Especially once that would empower the DNR to take additional actions to prevent this type of well-water contamination.

In addition, let’s recall that we just ended 2018, which was filled with extreme flooding and other weather events that exacerbate this type of runoff pollution.
Madison experienced its second wettest year on record. Its 50.64 inches fell about 2 inches shy of the record set in 1881, according to data from the Wisconsin State Climatology Office. Milwaukee had its third wettest year, with 45.08 inches this past year, and La Crosse, with 42.59 inches, had its fifth wettest.

In 2018, the southern half of the state saw about 125 percent more accumulated rain and snow than average, according to assistant Wisconsin state climatologist Ed Hopkins.

"There were certain areas in southern Wisconsin that were extremely wet, but you look up to northern Wisconsin, and while it was not drought conditions, it was below average precipitation for the year," he said.

Hopkins said that, overall, the state has experienced a marked, upward trend in annual precipitation, which he partially attributes to a warming climate. Since the 1960s, annual totals have increased by about six tenths of an inch every decade.
And the related chart from Hopkins shows that 2 of the top 3 years of for precipitation in Wisconsin have been in the last 10 years, with each of the last 5 years prior to 2018 well above the 30-year average.

And the combination of increased rain, increased mega-farms and decreased regulations on pollution helps to explain why so many rural areas of the state have had issues with drinking water. Not just in the rural 608, as we saw this week, but also ongoing problems in the Central Sands region, and Kewaunee County.

Maybe these places should stop voting for the Republicans that promote policies which encourage overproduction that plummets crop prices and increases runoff pollution. Maybe clean drinking water, better roads and not having your farm going under is a preferred outcome over the cheap thrill of “sticking it” to the people that aren’t from small towns like you.

Weird thought, I know!


  1. To be fair, the history of catering to big dairy belongs to both Republicans and Democrats. Doyle allowed the so-called "siting rule" which said DNR must permit all CAFOs unless a very limited set of criteria weren't met. The potential for ground water contamination wasn't included. Since that time, the number of CAFOs has exploded. Managers and administrators in both administrations over ruled staff to insure growth of industrial farms. Stepp of course took it to a new level when she and Schimmel brazenly over ruled an Administrative Law Judge on allowing CAFO permits to be conditioned.

  2. Scott Krug, Joel Kitchens and Howard Marklein all lied to voters when they talked about addressing the problem. They don't intend to do anything. We will see if Evers and new DNR Secretary Cole can implement anything or if the Ag Industry controls them also.