Wisconsin DNR abandons clean water effort

by Ruth Conniff

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Wednesday announcement it is abandoning its efforts to develop regulations that would reduce nitrate pollution in drinking water caused by runoff from manure and commercial fertilizers.

“The statutory process and the associated firm deadlines set by the legislature for rule making do not allow enough time for the ministry to complete this proposed rule,” said Chris Clayton, MNR section chief for agricultural runoff, in a letter to the Technical Advisory Committee. responsible for developing the new rule.

The new bylaw would have established “performance standards for agriculture and municipalities to protect human health and water quality,” Clayton wrote, including “practices to avoid the application of manure or water. Nitrogen fertilizers on vulnerable soils in the fall when there is no growing crop available to lock in nutrients.

Midwest Environmental Advocates immediately released a statement calling the news “a devastating blow to many rural Wisconsin families, especially those who live in areas of the state – including southwestern Wisconsin and the Central Sands – where fractured bedrock and shallow soils have resulted in widespread nitrate pollution. of groundwater.

The environmental group criticized industrial farm groups and their allies in the Legislature for creating “barriers – including arbitrary timelines and cost limits – that significantly complicated, and ultimately derailed, the process.” .

Among these was the requirement that blocks the rule if it imposes too high a cost on private industry.

“A law that requires the state government to make decisions based on the financial interests of the industry regardless of the impact on the health and well-being of the people of Wisconsin is both outrageous and morally wrong.” MEA staff attorney Adam Voskuil said. “If these new rules on nitrates had progressed, the benefit to human health would have far exceeded the cost of implementation. Wisconsinites have reportedly saved millions of dollars in direct medical costs for cancer, birth defects and other adverse health effects associated with nitrate in drinking water.

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