No DNT found in sampling around former Badger Army Ammunition site

September 19, 2018

Preliminary test results from an August sampling of private wells around the former Badger Army Ammunitions Plant show no signs of DNT. The wells tested were located in the Water’s Edge subdivision.

Joel Jensen with Spec Pro Professional Services, the environmental and facilities service firm hired by the U.S. Army in its remediation efforts at Badger, told residents and community stakeholders about the results during a Sept. 13 public meeting held by the Army. Jensen said, the results still need to be validated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources before the results can be released as official.

Jensen said one new well was sampled in this round of testing. Fifty-two of 54 wells were tested.

“One of the wells was not available and one was not pumping,” Jensen said. “Overall the results were consistent with past year sampling.”

He said the only difference this time is there was no DNT detected in all 52 of those wells. Jensen said included in the sampling is one well in the Water’s Edge subdivision that has consistently tested positive for DNT above the health enforcement standard; it also showed no signs of DNT in this round of testing.

“It’s not the first time that’s happened,” Jensen said. “That well has had some non-detection before but routinely has had DNT.”

Wells in the Water’s Edge subdivision saw a spike in the level of DNT last year — the first time since 2008 results showed exceedance.

The Army still plans to hire Jensen’s firm to replace that well this fall, despite the findings of the August results. The Army will continue with its annual sampling program of the private wells and the results will be sent to residents by way of the DNR.

The Army has agreed to a one-time sampling of any residential well around Badger. The sampling will take place between October and July, 2019.

A Merrimac resident inquired as to whether the plumes have shifted closer to the water’s edge, based on the map the Army was using.

In a later interview, Cathy Kropp, Environmental PA Specialist with the U.S. Army Environmental Command clarified the plume has shifted over decades.

“At this point the plume is not touching the river,” Kropp said. “The problem was with the resolution of the map.”

Kropp said due to the way the groundwater flows, it is “not anticipated” groundwater carrying possible contaminants would flow into the river.

“It just isn’t expected, but we still are monitoring our wells by the river,” Kropp said. “But our current plan is to keep monitoring.”

One resident, Judy Elsing, asked why the Army has never addressed the number of people in the affected area who have been diagnosed with cancer.

“There is a lot of cancer in the area,” Elsing said. “No one talks about it. I know there are privacy laws, but there are ways to report numbers generically. We need to look more closely at the health of the people in this area.”

Kropp said in advance of every meeting, the Army routinely encourages residents to recommend topics they’d like addressed.

“If you want someone from the department of health to do a presentation, let us know,” Kropp said.

Later, Elsing said the Army’s presentations can be difficult to understand.

“Let’s get down to the basics,” she said. “They need to speak the language of the people.”

Two local entities are calling for more action on the part of the Army.

Town of Merrimac administrator Tim McCumber sent an email in advance of the meeting to the Eagle, stating the town board passed what it called The Badger Resolution. In it, the board states the Army should be providing town of Merrimac residents with free, monthly water testing.

Although acknowledging the resolution can’t force the Army to take action, it is the town’s way of making an official stance on the matter.

The PFAS Community Campaign based out of Merrimac calls upon the Army to “prioritize and conduct off-base public and residential well testing for PFAS” within a four-mile radius of Badger. Communities potentially impacted by the resolution include Sauk City, the village of Prairie du Sac, Maple Park Condominiums, Summer Oaks Condominium Association, Bluffview Commons and Bluffview Sanitary District, among others.

PFAS, also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of toxic, man-made chemicals which are very persistent and mobile in the environment and can create huge groundwater contaminate plumes with the ability to migrate miles from source areas. Exposure to certain forms of PFAS include low infant birth weight, effects on the immune system, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption.

Laura Olah, executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, said the Army’s upcoming one-time testing of residential wells would be a good time to also test for PFAS.

“The only way to know if someone has it is to test for it,” Olah said. “Personally, I hope I’m wrong and you don’t find any, because the wake of (a PFAS contamination) would be massive.”

She said in 1990, three families had contaminated water for 15 years.

“We cannot make that same mistake again,” Olah said. “We have to remember that history, and we cannot repeat it.”

Division Chief of the Army Environmental Command Randall Cerar said part of the challenge is in the method of data collection for DNT and how it differs for PFAS.

“If we were going to go down that path, we would have to hold off on the DNT sampling to make sure we aren’t cross contaminating the sampling, because PFAS is in so many items,” Cerar said. “Some of the materials used in pumps can give you positives too.”

Because of that, Cerar said the entire water system of the house would have to be evaluated in order to determine the source.

“It may not be coming from the groundwater,” Cerar said. “It could be coming from the equipment itself. That’s how complicated this is.”

A risk assessment will help the Army determine an action plan for the area. The Army has been using the U.S. Geological Survey based out of Madison as a third party for a review of cleanup efforts to date, and other possible actions the Army should be taking.

“Things are getting better,” Cerar said. “But we aren’t quite where we want to be yet.”

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