Jeremiah’s Water and Public Enemy # 1

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

And I brought you into a plentiful land
to enjoy its fruits and its good things.
But when you came in, you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination. Jeremiah 2:7

People cannot live a full life if the water and the land are polluted. Mankind is called to be a good steward over the Earth. We have fallen short of that in Wisconsin.

TOWN OF LINCOLN, Kewaunee County — In one of the most intensively farmed parts of America’s Dairyland, where 29 percent of the county’s private wells test unsafe due to bacteria or nitrates, residents have a new concern: estrogenic well water.

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay researchers cited manure as a possible source — though not the only one — for the endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in half of 40 wells in northeastern Wisconsin, chosen for testing because of their susceptibility to contamination.

“We don’t know what the human health risks are,” said Angela Bauer, lead author. “But what we do know is that long-term exposure to estrogen in general can increase your risk to certain types of diseases, including hormone-sensitive cancers. So I think it’s absolutely something that requires further attention.”

Lincoln resident Mick Sagrillo had already stopped drinking his well water before he learned that it had “the honor,” as he put it sarcastically, of being Kewaunee’s most estrogenic — that is, tainted with the hormone estrogen or something mimicking it.

Wisconsin Watch has  a terrific article detailing the Water Woes of Wisconsin.

For more than a decade Sagrillo, an energy consultant, has kept a spreadsheet of his well’s woes, using happy and sad faces to annotate test results. The nitrate tests all show sad faces, while the coliform bacteria are about half and half. Last spring, for the first time, his well test identified the fecal bacteria E. coli.

To Sagrillo, the estrogenic water is just another reason to worry about Big Dairy’s effects on this vulnerable landscape. In Lincoln, 51 percent of the wells tested are unsafe — more than twice the statewide rate of about one quarter.

Of course, there is no “scientific evidence” that estrogenic water comes from the effluence of dairy cows that are fed estrogens and whose urination and defecation are full of the stuff. There is never enough evidence until all of a sudden everyone agrees that there is. Tritium poisoning, asbestos cancers, smoking cancers, Love Canal, and Superfund sites across America all are testaments to the fact that there is never enough scientific evidence until there is.

Here in eastern Barron County, the lake waters are filled with algae that turn the local lakes as green as a shamrock on St Patrick’s Day. The lakes are surrounded by farms that are “fed” by turkey manure spread on local farmland. But no one wants to admit it. They like to think that lake residents and Scott’s Turf Grow lawn products are responsible. While there is no evidence that the effluence of turkey farms and dairy operations are the single largest contributor to the problem, there are no other sources that can be identified as contributors. The algae find the manure contribution from farmland magically delicious and it grows unimpeded. The Chetek Lake Protection Association does what they can (which is talk, watch, and measure) but there is no money anywhere to make things better. The state financial contribution to re-establish clean air and water borders on insanity. Does $3.5 M in grants sound like enough to you? Didn’t think so. There is $200M available in the Clean Water Fund for “Construction of wastewater and storm water treatment facilities, sewer systems, and interceptors necessary to prevent a violation of discharge limits, to meet new or changed limits, or to protect human health and water quality in unsewered areas.” For human crap and drinking water, not for restoring the ‘free water’ of Wisconsin.

Manure. We are full of it. Manure trucks carry so much that they are overweight and local authorities are meeting on January 27th with the County Sheriff to consider establishing a special deputy who will weigh trucks to make sure they are not overweight for the roads they ride on. It’s not just manure, it is also logging trucks, agricultural implements of husbandry, and perhaps frac sand trucks that will be overweight but it’s the manure and other fertilizers that feed the algae every year.

I have not tested my well for estrogens but I will. I will also test it for other toxic materials… like manure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses the term “manure-to-cropland ratio” to describe the problem. Brown County, where Green Bay’s urban sprawl has eaten into farmland, has the highest ratio, followed by other northeastern counties.

“You have the worst-case scenario here,” said Bill Hafs, a former Brown County conservationist who now directs the environmental program for NEW Water, the Green Bay sewerage district. “The trends are unsustainable for agriculture and water quality.”

Gordon Stevenson, a retired former chief of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources runoff management section, calculated that Wisconsin’s 3.4 million cows produce more waste than the people of Tokyo and Mexico City combined. He called land spreading of untreated manure “public enemy No. 1” in a recent speech.

If I were President, I would piss everyone off by saying that the goal of the EPA is to return America’s ‘free water’ quality and ‘free air’ quality to the same levels as 1620 when the Mayflower Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. I would give the EPA “four score and seven years” to make it so. No more rivers catching fire, no more undrinkable water wells.

People need clean air and clean water to live. We must do what we can to obtain it, reclaim it, and provide cleaner water and cleaner air to our descendants. Air and water quality must be better when we leave this world than when we found it.

Author: Reasonable Citizen

Reserved, inquisitive, looks before leaping,

2 thoughts on “Jeremiah’s Water and Public Enemy # 1”

  1. Without a fair milk price that actually covers their cost of production, many of the German farmers said they would not survive through 2010. The same crisis is facing dairy farmers in the U.S. who have endured a 50% decline in farmgate prices due to corporate control even as consumer prices for milk in the store have not budged and the dairy giants report record profits. In contrast, sustainable organic grass-based dairy farmers were a bit better off in Germany as they are in the U.S., though their future is not secure either. Numerous studies by Tom Kriegl of the UW Center for Dairy Profitability have shown that the most efficient dairy operations have less than 100 cows mostly outside and eating grass – yet, such a family farm is not large enough to qualify for taxpayer support and does not create enough manure to require a methane digester.

  2. In ground water, pathogens and nitrates from manure can impact human health via drinking water. Nitrate contamination is more prevalent in ground waters than surface waters. According to the U.S. EPA, nitrate is the most widespread agricultural contaminant in drinking water wells, and nearly 2% of our population (1.5 million people) is exposed to elevated nitrate levels from drinking water wells.

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