By Warren Bluhm
After close to two years of work and discussion, the recommendations of the Groundwater Collaboration Workgroups organized by the state Department of Natural Resources were endorsed unanimously and unconditionally by the Kewaunee County Board on Thursday night.
The workgroups were comprised of representatives from agriculture, government at all levels, and concerned citizens seeking consensus on how to deal with groundwater contamination that has affected up to a third of the wells in parts of northern Kewaunee County.
Dozens of recommendations were submitted from the three workgroups – one that concentrated on short-term solutions, one that dealt with how to ensure compliance with regulations and environmental standards, and another that developed best management practices for sensitive areas, especially the fragile karst bedrock located just below the topsoil in the most affected regions.
The County Board resolution notes that the recommendations were intended to provide county residents with 1) “avenues to a safe drinking water source and/or clear information for those with contaminated drinking water to quickly and efficiently obtain a safe drinking water source”; 2) “better understanding of the regulatory structure and ability of regulatory entities to monitor compliance as well as potential tools to promote compliance”; and 3) “recommendations of practices intended to reduce or eliminate groundwater pollution in sensitive areas.”
Supervisor John Pagel, who owns perhaps the most prominent concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in Kewaunee County and has been the target of criticism from anti-CAFO groups, made the motion to approve the resolution in his role as chairman of the Land & Water Conservation Committee.
“This was a consensus of information that was brought together that a lot of people agreed on, recommendations that would improve water quality in Kewaunee County,” Pagel said. “We passed it unanimously and we believe that these recommendations should be passed on by the full board.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, supervisors heard two letters and two speakers urging them to pass the resolution.
“These proposed rules should be welcomed by anyone claiming to be a steward of the land and concerned about future generations living here,” said Keith Van Kroft, one of dozens of people who volunteer to take water sample from local streams because the DNR doesn’t have the resources to conduct all the sampling itself.
The resolution and recommendations are to be forwarded to state and federal agencies and elected officials responsible for implementing some of the measures.