Democratic and Republican lawmakers are scheduled to join farmers and researchers next week for a panel discussion about drinking water contamination in central Wisconsin.
The Jan. 6 panel, organized by the Wood County Citizens Groundwater Group, will include state geologist Ken Bradbury; U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Mark Borchardt; Sarah Yang, a toxicologist with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services; and Yi Wang, a UW-Madison horticulturist.
Other panelists include a local public health official and representatives of Coloma Farms, a potato and vegetable operation, and the Farmers of Mill Creek Watershed Council, a farmer-led conservation group.
State Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, and Reps. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, and Scott Krug, R-Nekoosa, are also expected to participate in the discussion on science and solutions for groundwater contamination.
Krug and Shankland serve on the Assembly’s environment committee, and Testin serves on the Senate’s agriculture and health committees. All three are members of the 2019 Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality.
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The discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Nekoosa High School auditorium at 500 S. Cedar St.
Bill Leichtnam, a Wood County supervisor and member of the three-year-old groundwater group, said the idea for the forum was developed after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, formed the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality earlier in 2019.
“It was our idea to bring together who we thought were the main players,” Leichtnam said. “We wanted to address groundwater contamination, but we wanted to go from the science into solutions. What are we going to do to solve the problem?”
Leichtnam said in three rounds of testing done over the past year, between 27% and 42% of Wood County wells showed elevated levels of nitrate.
Communities across Wisconsin have been grappling with wells polluted by nitrates, bacteria and chemicals known as PFAS, an emerging group of contaminants linked to firefighting foam and dozens of household products.
Gov. Tony Evers declared 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water,” and the Assembly’s clean water task force is expected to deliver a package of bills in January. The Department of Natural Resources also has initiated efforts to regulate PFAS and to implement new regulations on the use of manure and fertilizer in an effort to reduce nitrate contamination.