Joint Finance to decide the fate of generations of Wisconsinites today

May 28, 2019

MADISON – Wisconsin is facing a crisis. Today, lawmakers on the Joint Finance Committee will debate and discuss crucial elements of the proposed state budget that address the unsafe drinking water that is having devastating effects on our health.

Failure to adopt the strong recommendations made by Gov. Tony Evers will lead to generations of children drinking polluted water.

One third of Wisconsin’s private wells have tested positive for pesticides. Just recently, 42 percent of wells in a tri-county area in southwest Wisconsin tested positive for bacteria, chemicals, or both. In Kewaunee County one-third of wells are contaminated. In Rock County, one in six of the county’s 11,000 private wells contain harmful bacteria, and one in three wells contain dangerous nitrates. The list goes on and on.

All across Wisconsin, from Superior to Platteville, drinking water is becoming increasingly unsafe.

Bacteria can cause a variety of illnesses and especially hurts our most vulnerable – the elderly and the young. Nitrates are life-threatening to babies and are linked to cancer. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children, interfere with the body’s hormones, and increase the risk of cancer.

Celina Stewart, a mother in Nekoosa, lost her infant daughter to a fatal brain malformation associated with high levels of nitrates. Another Wisconsin mother lost her pregnancy.

Erika Balza, a homeowner in Kewaunee County, was aghast when pure liquid manure ran from her taps. “Brown water events” are reported regularly. During these events there’s so much manure saturating wells, whole communities can’t drink their water. There are families in Algoma who have to haul water from a water kiosk at a local high school.

This public health crisis is hurting individuals and families, particularly children. It will worsen in scope and severity unless our elected leaders take swift and comprehensive action. Today it is imperative members of the Joint Finance Committee approve Gov. Evers’ budget proposals to:

  • Increase CAFO fees to a $660 annual fee and a $3200 application fee.
  • Create five new positions at the DNR to oversee CAFOs – this would bring the DNR up to the recommended staff-to-permit ratio identified in the 2016 legislative audit for the CAFO program.
  • Increase the amount of money available to replace contaminated wells to $800,000 annually. Adopt changes that would allow drinking water wells, not just wells for livestock, to qualify for replacement. Lower limits for nitrates and arsenic to levels where they begin to impact human health.
  • Increase funding for county conservation staff – the boots on the ground who implement critical water quality programs.

“Without comprehensive solutions that provide the resources necessary to end the drinking water crisis in Wisconsin, our elected officials will fail to protect their constituents and will miss a once in a generation opportunity to fix a problem that is plaguing thousands of Wisconsinites,” said Jennifer Giegerich, government affairs director. “This is the time. This is when we must act and invest in solutions, not political maneuvering or band-aid fixes or endless debate. The truth is clear: this is our best opportunity to protect our own health and the health of our children and their children.”

For additional information

Contact Ryan Billingham, communications director, 608-208-1129 or