WisconsinWeekly: Polluted water wells in southwestern Wisconsin

Tests find contamination in drinking water wells; exact source still unknown

Of note: The latest round of testing provides disturbing new evidence that well water in parts of Wisconsin is tainted with dangerous contaminants. Forty-two percent of a random sample of wells tested in Iowa, Grant and Lafayette counties were found to contain dangerous levels of bacteria or nitrate. Previous news reports focused on nitrate pollution in La Crosse, Juneau and Wood counties and bacterial contamination from human and animal waste in Kewaunee County. The most recent testing prompted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to promise to convene a task force to explore the state of Wisconsin’s drinking water.

WisconsinWeekly, a collection of stories for people who care deeply about the state, is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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Hazardous drinking water found in 42% of southwest Wisconsin wells

Wisconsin State Journal — January 2, 2019

The first systematic study of well water quality in southwest Wisconsin has found that 42 percent of the wells tested contained levels of bacteria or fertilizer residue above federal safety limits. This region of Wisconsin is not subject to the stricter manure disposal regulations that cover much of eastern Wisconsin, despite concerns that these areas may share the geological features that put groundwater at higher risk. Previously from WCIJ: Bacteria in state’s drinking water is public health crisis; and Nitrate in water widespread; current rules no match for it

Shots fired and a child dies. Reckless shooters in Milwaukee leave children vulnerable

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — January 2, 2019

Last year, gun violence in Milwaukee took a heavy toll on the city’s youngest residents, whose lives were honored last month at a memorial concert in Milwaukee for the “Killing of the Innocents.” Former Milwaukee police Lt. Steven Spingola blames the rise in child casualties on a change in weapons. Where short-range, small-caliber guns once proliferated, “Now everybody has a Glock (semiautomatic handgun), rifles that can penetrate two houses,” Spingola said. Previously from WCIJ: Bullets exacted terrible toll on children, African-Americans

Baby’s death sparks water safety fight with ag industry

Minneapolis Star Tribune — December 26, 2018

Star Tribune reporter Josephine Marcotty chronicles efforts by residents in the Central Sands of Wisconsin to fight back as large farms have drained rivers and lakes with high-capacity wells and nitrate levels in wells have risen to unsafe levels. The battles aren’t over, but residents  have seen their work pay off, stalling a new feedlot, removing an irrigation well and connecting residents of conflicting viewpoints. Previously from WCIJ: Groundwater war pits Wisconsin farms against fish

Seven kids. Five homes. Nine schools. Two years in the life of a Milwaukee family.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 28, 2018

In the ongoing Lessons Lost series, Journal Sentinel reporter Erin Richards investigates the consequences of Milwaukee’s high student turnover rate. In this story, Richards profiles a single Milwaukee family over the course of two years to explore what causes families to repeatedly switch their children from school to school. “Those decisions are often driven by frustratingly similar conditions,” reports Richards. Among them: “Joblessness, poverty and evictions” and “a lack of mental health care, supportive family or well-informed, trusted advisers.”

Speaker Robin Vos won’t release $850,000 contract with law firm in Wisconsin gerrymandering case

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — December 31, 2018

State Assembly Republicans recently hired a Chicago law firm to help defend the state’s legislative district maps in an ongoing lawsuit alleging gerrymandering, but Speaker Robin Vos is refusing to release the contract. Freedom of information advocates say the move violates the state’s open records law. Those who say the contract may be protected under attorney-client privilege argue Vos should either release a redacted version or weigh the consequences of releasing the document against the benefits. Earlier from WCIJ: Last minute surprises and secretive moves hid Wisconsin lawmakers’ actions from public view

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