#LocalGovMatters – Water Quality

This week Gwyn interviews three legislators and one village administrator about water quality issues in Wisconsin.

Sen. Cowles testifying on SB-091 – Water Pollution Credit Transfer

Gwyn starts off the podcast with a few definitions and some information from Legislative Council on Water Quality laws in Wisconsin.

  • Point Source Pollution: Any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged – such as a pipe, ditch, ship or factory. Factories and sewage treatment plants are two common types of point source.
  • Nonpoint Source Pollution: Generally, results from land runoff, precipitation, atmospheric deposition, drainage, seepage or hydrologic modification. Unlike Point Source pollution, Nonpoint Source pollution comes from many diffuse source like rainfall, or snowmelt moving through the ground. As the water moves it picks up and carries away natural and man-made pollutants depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ground waters.

Wisconsin’s regulatory structure for surface water pollution has been in place for more than 40 years, and the state’s groundwater protection laws for more than 30 years. Wisconsin currently has approximately 5 pollution control strategies

  1. Total Maximum Daily Loads – the amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can assimilate and not exceed water quality standards.
  2. Nutrient Management – Conservation practices that relate to nonpoint source pollution
  3. Water Quality Credit Trading – Allows states to develop water pollution trading programs (more on this when we get to Sen. Cowles bill proposal)
  4. Adaptive Management – Allows a Wisconsin Pollutant  Discharge Elimination System permittee to reduce phosphorus discharges from other sources, including nonpoint sources.
  5. Stormwater Management.

Approximately 40% of Wisconsin households get their drinking water from a private well. If the groundwater in those wells becomes contaminated, the owner of the well may be eligible for certain compensation. A well is considered contaminated if the well produces water that exceeds either the national drinking water standards established by the EPA, or is subject of a written DNR human health advisory opinion

Next Gwyn talks with Rep. Todd Novak, the Chair of the Speakers Task Force on Water Quality. Rep. Novak speaks about the committee, its goals, and the numerous public hearings he plans to hold. Rep. Novak highlights that this will not be a fast process and the goal of the committee is to come to answers.

Gwyn then talks with Rep. Katrina Shankland, the Vice-Chair of the Speakers Task Force on Water Quality. Rep. Shankland discusses the water quality issues facing Wisconsin, including: Arsenic, Lead, Nitrates, Phosphorus, Radium, Chloro Bacteria, Ecoli, and PFAS, She highlights the importance of local government in mapping water quality issues and tells listeners what they can do to test their water.

Sen. Cowles has introduced SB-091, a bill to offer water pollution transfer credits through a clearinghouse in Wisconsin. First Sen. Cowles talks about how the program would work, then goes into the importance of the legislation and the impact it could have on local governments.

Finally, Gwyn talks with Village of Marathon City Administrator Andy Kurtz. Marathon City is one of the first communities impacted by the new DNR discharge rules and the Village is looking for options to offset 700 lbs. of pollutant a year through a transfer program. Upgrading the Village’s wastewater treatment could run into the millions and the Village can not afford those mechanical changes right now.

Thanks to our partners in Community Media:
Rice Lake Radio – 105.5 FM
Waupaca Radio – 96.3 FM
Sun Prairie Radio – 103.5 FM
And we’re excited to announce we’re now on Oshkosh Radio – 101.9 FM

Thank you to The League of Wisconsin Municipalities and Wisconsin Counties Association for working with me on this podcast.  And thanks to Jackie Johnson for doing all our sound editing.