Wisconsin not enforcing its obligations to reduce phosphorus

22 April 2012

”]Today is World Earth Day, probably yet another holiday, like many of the other environmental “days”, that has gone ignored by most.  Did you know its Earth Day today??  Be honest!  As observed in the Columbus Despatch,

Earth Days come and go, today being the 43rd anniversary of America’s semiofficial acknowledgement that life leans on nature and that self-interest demands humans not mess up a good thing.

 Wisconsin is the USA’s ‘lake state’.  They have thousands of them.  They also have thousands of dairy farms and other sources of pollution.  A couple of years back a decision was made to enforce limits on phosphorus getting into surface waters.  Recent reports indicate that only paltry attention has been paid to this urgent need [Source: Oshkosh Hub].

Every two years the Clean Water Act requires states to publish a list of all waters that cannot be used without limitations because of a variety of pollutants, the primary being total phosphorus, mercury and suspended solids.

The existing Impaired Waters List for Wisconsin includes more than 700 rivers, streams and lakes.

Ninety-nine lakes and rivers exceeding the state’s new numeric phosphorus standards but not experiencing biological impacts to aquatic life —like algae blooms — are being added to Wisconsin’s proposed 2012 list of impaired waters. [Source. Fondulac].

Wisconsin is not fully enforcing strict phosphorus limits adopted two years ago to reduce lake-algae blooms that make people sick, a Gannett Wisconsin Media review has found.

That’s despite the Department of Natural Resources secretary’s alarm at foul conditions in at least one Wisconsin lake last summer.

The state Legislature in 2010 approved DNR regulations intended to cut down on the amount of phosphorous running into waterways, where it causes algae to grow so thick that the water turns to green soup. The regulations are aimed at municipal wastewater treatment plants, paper mills and factories — which are required to reapply for permits at five-year intervals.

The state Department of Natural Resources has issued only 19 permits with stricter phosphorus limits since September 2010 to reduce algae. / For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

But as of last week, only 19 permits with stricter limits have been issued since September 2010. The DNR still is evaluating applications from 201 municipal facilities and 155 industrial facilities, while hundreds more must apply for permits in the coming years.At its worst, cyanobacteria — the organisms that feed on phosphorus and are commonly known as blue-green algae — can sicken humans, causing respiratory problems, skin rashes and cold- or flu-like symptoms. During the last three years, 100 people reported illnesses to the state Department of Public Health after exposure to blue-green algae, which also has caused the death of at least two dogs in that time.

Blue-green algae coats portions of Tainter Lake in Dunn County each summer, a result of high phosphorus levels in the lake. Source: OshkoshHub

Dunn County in northwest Wisconsin reported the highest number of illnesses, largely at Tainter Lake and the equally algae-coated Lake Menomin. Dick Lamers, president of the joint Lake Improvement Association, built his house on Tainter Lake in 2007 and said he was fully aware of the algae that grows on the lake each summer. But he had no idea how bad it could get.

Wisconsonians (?) should be grateful that they have some measure of control and enforcement.  Getting something tangible done about eutrophication is an uphill battle, on a very steep hill.  Many countries, such as South Africa, have no such efforts at all, yet. Ignorance is playing a huge role, mostly amongst the officials who should be doing something.  So, support what is being done so far and any efforts to get more in place!  Its everybody’s problem, not just somebody!

Earth Day should embody some measure of respect.  It should not be yet another “lets take the Earth for granted day”.  There is no Plan(et) B.



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