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News Sickle Arrow NSA Black Earth Cross Plains

By Joe Block 

Badger cleanup starting over

Process started 8 years ago, Army did not get “best guidance”

 

June 27, 2019



The effort by the Army to clean up pollutants affecting residential wells around the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant has gone back to the drawing board.

In 2011 the Army concluded a Revised Alternative Feasibility Study, with the following listed objectives: “protect human health by preventing exposure to contaminated groundwater from BAAP, to restore groundwater to the extent practicable, and minimize the impact of the contaminant plumes on the environment.” One of the remedies stated by the Army was to “install a residential water system” for the town of Merrimac. No water system was installed.

In 2017, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin questioned Army Secretary Robert Speer about the issue, noting she was disappointed by the Army’s reversal on its promise to install the water system. She asked Speer to promise that the Army would better communicate with the residents and stakeholders about the cleanup. He promised to “look into it,” but stopped short of making that promise.

In the meantime the Army has increased testing of residential and test wells. Over the past 2 years several residential wells have tested over the limit for safe drinking water. Those residences were put on bottled water and had new wells installed. One residence remains on bottled water.

During the production of ammunition at Badger, toxic chemicals reached the groundwater through the disposal of propellant waste in open burn pits, ditches, and tanks. Contaminated soils have been removed, but four groundwater plumes have been identified. The plumes reach south from the former plant to Sauk Prairie, Merrimac, and Lake Wisconsin.

2 attempts at dredging Gruber’s Grove Bay in Lake Wisconsin in order to clean up contaminated sediments from wastewater discharge were unsuccessful. The Army is planning another dredging, this time noting that technology has advanced.

Last Thursday the Restoration Advisory Board met. The board is composed of representatives from affected and area communities. They will work with the Army going forward towards a remediation plan. The board was created in 2011 following the Army’s initial attempt to clean up Badger.

Town of Merrimac administrator Tim McCumber, who has been involved in the process since the beginning, asked Army officials at the meeting to “admit that we screwed up 5 years ago.” Randy Cerar, who is now in charge of the cleanup process, said that the Army “was not getting the best guidance.”

The cleanup process involves complex reports and data, and the citizen members of the board are provided with funds to contract with experts in the field in order to advise them. The Army limits the total cost to $25,000. Since the remediation process began 8 years ago, those funds have all but been exhausted. Cerar said that the representatives would have to apply for permission to exceed the amount. He said he was confident the extra funding would be approved.

The Army’s website on Badger, which had been inaccessible to many for a period of time, can be found at: https://aec.army.mil/index.php/baap The Army is not yet able to update it, however.

 
 

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