Winter 2017 join us:
CAPITOL IMPROVEMENTS By Amber Meyer Smith, Director of Programs & Government Relations
Clean Wisconsin’s 2017-‘18 Legislative Priorities The Wisconsin State Legislature began its two-year session in January with the largest Republican majorities in decades. The 2017-2018 session brings 15 new lawmakers to the state capitol, where Republicans will control the Senate 20-13, and the Assembly 64-35. Clean Wisconsin is hard at work educating legislators about the issues that have the greatest impacts on our natural resources. Our Clean Wisconsin priorities for the 2017-2018 session include:
PROTECTING CLEAN, ABUNDANT WATER Groundwater over-pumping has severe impacts on farms, businesses, municipalities, and citizens. It’s been 13 years since Wisconsin took the first step toward protecting groundwater, and Wisconsinites are desperately waiting for lawmakers to forward legislation that prevents their waterfront properties from drying up and their favorite trout streams from disappearing. Minnesota and Michigan have figured out ways to provide sustainable groundwater resources for all users, and it is past time for Wisconsin to do the same. continued on page 5
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DEADLY I DRIVEWAYS Tar-based sealants threaten our health and environment
By Jon Drewsen, Communciations Associate
Also in this issue
n the summer, it’s common to see homeowners and contractors applying thick coats of tar-black seal coating to driveways and parking lots in an attempt to return those ordinary asphalt surfaces to their original look. But while your freshly-sealed driveway may look nice on the surface, if the sealant used is coal tar-based, then the driveway could have significant negative impacts on our waterways and on human health. That’s because tar-based sealants are made from coal tar, a liquid waste pollutant classified as a hazardous waste.
DANGEROUS BYPRODUCT Coal tar is a byproduct of a coal purification process primarily used in the production of steel. It contains extremely high levels of dangerous chemical compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. PAHs are known to cause cancer and developmental problems in humans and they can harm fish and other forms of aquatic life. About onefourth or more of a bucket of tar-based sealant is coal tar. continued on page 7
Focus on Energy | Epicurean Evening Madison & Milwaukee | Digesters
SHARE YOUR STORY WITH CLEAN WISCONSIN
We can’t protect Wisconsin’s environment without you. We want to know why you care enough to support us. Did you learn your conservation ethic from your grandparents? Do you take a daily hike through the woods near your home? Are you worried about the impacts of climate change? We want to learn about the places you love in Wisconsin, why they’re worth protecting, and why you support us. To share your story, contact John at 608-251-7020 x15 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again for supporting our work!
BECOME A SUSTAINING DONOR
Sustaining donations are our favorite kind of gift because they’re convenient for you and Clean Wisconsin. When you become a Sustaining Donor, it reduces paper and postage costs, divides your generous contribution into manageable monthly or quarterly payments, and provides Clean Wisconsin with a reliable stream of financial support. This means we can focus more on our work to protect Wisconsin’s air and water and less on fundraising. For more information, contact Sarah at email@example.com or set up your Sustaining donation online at www.cleanwisconsin.org/donate.
LEAVE A LEGACY WITH A PLANNED GIFT
Be a steward of Wisconsin’s air, water, and the places you love for generations to come by making a planned gift to Clean Wisconsin! We hope you’ll consider naming Clean Wisconsin as a beneficiary of your will or estate plan. There are many easy ways this can be done. These gifts don’t have to be large or complex, but they have huge impact. Anyone can leave a legacy. If you have already named Clean Wisconsin in your plan, please let us know. If you have any questions about leaving a legacy, contact Development Director Angela Cao at 608-2517020 x17 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
634 W. Main St., #300 • Madison WI 53703 Phone: 608-251-7020 www.cleanwisconsin.org
Clean Wisconsin protects and preserves Wisconsin’s clean water, air, and natural heritage. On behalf of our more than 30,000 members, supporters, and coalition partners, we have been your leading voice for Wisconsin’s environment since 1970.
STAFF President & CEO Mark Redsten Director of Communications John Adams Development Associate Sarah Bewitz Development Director Angela Cao Director of Science & Research Tyson Cook Chief Financial Officer Nick Curran, CPA Communications Associate Jonathan Drewsen Staff Attorney Evan Feinauer
Changing the climate on climate change
Organizing Hub Co-Director Melissa Gavin Water Quality Specialist Scott Laeser Staff Scientist Paul Mathewson Director of Programs & Government Relations Amber Meyer Smith Water Resources Specialist Ezra Meyer General Counsel Katie Nekola Staff Attorney & Climate Resilience Project Manager Pam Ritger Senior Policy Director Keith Reopelle Grant & Foundations Manager Ella Schwierske Midwest Clean Energy Coordinator Sarah Shanahan
Help shift the dialog on March 7
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The Defender is owned and published quarterly by Clean Wisconsin 634 W. Main St., #300, Madison, WI 53703 608-251-7020, email@example.com A one-year subscription membership is $40. Please direct correspondence to the address above. Volume 47, No. 1 Issue date: February 2017 ©2017 Clean Wisconsin. All rights reserved. ISSN # 1549-8107
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Chair Liz Feder, Madison Vice Chair Karen Knetter, Madison Secretary Glenn Reinl, Madison Treasurer Gof Thomson, New Glarus Past Chair Carl Sinderbrand, Middleton Belle Bergner, Milwaukee Shari Eggleson, Washburn Elizabeth Feder, Madison Gary Goyke, Madison Andrew Hoyos, McFarland Mark McGuire, Madison Arun Soni, Madison Board Emeritus Kate Gordon, San Francisco Board Emeritus Chuck McGinnis, Middleton
Why we’re protecting your Wisconsin waters By Katie Nekola, General Counsel
The Wisconsin Constitution requires the State to protect and preserve its waters for fishing, hunting, recreation, and scenic beauty for all the citizens of the state. From the website of the Department of Natural Resources: Wisconsin lakes and rivers are public resources, owned in common by all Wisconsin citizens under the state’s Public Trust Doctrine. Based on the state constitution, this doctrine has been further defined by case law and statute. It declares that all navigable waters are “common highways and forever free,” and held in trust by the Department of Natural Resources. To be “held in trust” means that the state legislature has delegated authority over water management to the Department of Natural Resources. It means, among many things, that the DNR has the duty to consider potential environmental harm to lakes, rivers, and streams when reviewing a permit application for a high capacity well—that is, a well that can pump more than 100,000 gallons of water per day. If the DNR’s scientific and technical review finds that allowing construction of a high capacity well is likely to harm the waters of the state, it should not grant the well permit. Unfortunately, the DNR has granted well permits despite the agency’s own technical reviews finding that those wells would harm the waters of the state. Last fall, the DNR issued more than twenty permits for high capacity wells in the face of clear evidence showing unacceptable negative impacts to nearby lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. These impacts included lowered water levels, impaired water flow, and altered ecologies of important trout streams. The cumulative impacts to ground and surface waters from the addition of more large wells would only further harm areas where existing wells are already causing problems. In late 2016, Clean Wisconsin challenged DNR’s decision to issue nine of those permits. We were joined on one of the permit challenges by the Pleasant Lake Management District. A judge recently consolidated these nine cases and they will be heard in one Dane County Circuit Court. As of press time, in addition to the DNR, several other parties moved to step in, or intervene, in the cases. Those interveners include Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Paper Council, Midwest Food Processors Association, Dairy Business Association, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, and Wisconsin Corn Growers Association. The state has asked a judge to dismiss our lawsuits, but we are confident our legal challenge will move forward. And it must move forward. There is much at stake: the waters of Wisconsin belong to all of us, not just those who want unlimited license to pump groundwater. It is the DNR’s duty under the Wisconsin Constitution to protect the waters of the state for all Wisconsinites. At Clean Wisconsin, we will remain steadfast in this legal work to ensure Wisconsin’s water remains bountiful and accessible for generations to come.
from the President & CEO If you’re concerned about what the changes in the political world mean for environmental protection in our state and country, I understand. I am worried, too. It’s hard to sugarcoat what is happening to our state and federal environmental protections; I’m skeptical our current elected leaders will allow new, but necessary, policy or legal reforms to protect us from emerging environmental crises. In January, Janette Brimmer, one of our Legal Advisory Council members, wrote an Earthjustice report, “The Dirty 31,” showing how 31 states are weakening drinking water protections. Mark Redsten Unfortunately, Wisconsin is on the bad list. Even President & CEO after the drinking water disaster in nearby Flint, Mich., Wisconsin’s own aging drinking water infrastructure, and widespread and dangerous drinking water contamination in places like Kewaunee County, our state leaders are not adequately addressing the issues. Instead, they are resisting any new, commonsense protections in water permits. Adding insult to injury, things are bad on the climate change front, too. Last year our governor signed an executive order preventing state employees from working on climate change efforts. Just recently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service Commission purged their websites of all references to the reality of the human-causes of climate change. And within 24 hours of taking office, President Donald Trump did the same by removing climate change science from the White House website. Even more troubling is Trump’s systemic silencing of scientists and agencies who have been devoted to the critical challenge of addressing climate change. What does all this mean? It means you can’t count on our state and federal leaders to do their job to protect the environment. But it does not mean we should throw in the towel! For 47 years, Clean Wisconsin has worked in the state capitol, in communities, and in the courts to protect our beautiful state and make sure our water and air are clean and safe. But we can’t do it alone, and we need your support, now more than ever. With your help, and with the tremendous support from others, we will halt many of these bad ideas in their tracks. And here is more good news: many citizens, businesses, and local governments understand the environment is a part of who we all are in Wisconsin, and they are stepping up to help. Nonprofit organizations like Clean Wisconsin will be instrumental in leading the way. Leaders from local governments, businesses, and many individual citizens will show how important this work is for all of us, and how protecting the environment will bring about economic rewards. So here are some things we’ll be emphasizing this year: • Educating and alerting. Clean Wisconsin will be communicating reliable, fact-based information to you and decision-makers directly through our Action Network, news reports and social media content. We will help you know when, where, and how to take action to protect Wisconsin’s environment. • Using legal action. Clean Wisconsin will invest more resources into legal work, and embrace and leverage support from legal experts around our state to ensure existing permits and laws are enforced. • Filling in gaps on science. Clean Wisconsin’s science team will continue to identify gaps in important scientific evidence and conduct research to fill those gaps. And we’ll present our findings to our colleagues, legislators, and to the courts. As our state government eliminates science professionals from agencies and removes science information from websites, our role in the scientific community is becoming increasingly important. • Partnering with health professionals. Clean air and safe drinking water are more than environmental challenges: they’re health issues, too. Health professionals and companies understand that clean air and water are not only moral issues important to their mission as healthcare providers, but they also know a healthy environment is critical to a healthy public. We will partner with health professionals to reinforce this important message. • Joining and supporting local efforts. Clean Wisconsin will be a strong voice in the state capitol, but we will also work directly with local utilities, organizations, and community leaders who are coming together to keep their lakes clean, their codes and ordinances effective, and their community practices sustainable. As we work locally, we’ll always look to promote good ideas throughout the state. Clean Wisconsin is working on forward-looking initiatives and has a top-notch team of professionals to implement them. We aren’t giving up … and neither should you! Instead, I encourage you to invest more time and money into helping Clean Wisconsin keep our state’s air and water clean. We need you. Together, we’ll protect the places we love in Wisconsin for generations to come.
MISGUIDED MOTIVATION Legislature discussing further cuts to Focus on Energy, despite program success By Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director
As 2016 came to a close, Focus on Energy (FOE), Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and small-scale renewable energy program, wrapped up another year of delivering cost-effective clean energy programs to Wisconsin citizens and businesses. In 2016, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin home and business owners saved hundreds of millions of dollars on their energy bills by taking advantage of the energy efficiency programs and renewable energy incentives offered by FOE. Indeed, the FOE program has been humming along as one of the most successful energy efficiency programs in the nation over the past 16 years. Despite this success, the program took a $7 million hit through legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2016. Even as the FOE program hits record-setting results year after year, the program continues to be vulnerable to rollbacks. At Clean Wisconsin, we are preparing for another attack on the FOE program sometime in the new legislative session. Welcome to the world of policy-making in Wisconsin. Most recently, the Public Service Commission (PSC) made some major decisions at the end of 2016 that raise red flags. The PSC allocated $47 million that had been collected from ratepayers, but not initially allocated to FOE. Of those dollars that were released, $20 million was set aside for biodigesters on farms, and $27 million will go to rural efficiency programs. The good news is that the PSC put $47 million (nearly all one-time dollars) into the program, most of which should have been in the program long ago. The red flag is that a substantial amount, about $27 million allocated for rural efficiency programs, was spent on expanding rural broadband access. This appears to be a handout to AT&T and other large internet provider companies.
The PSC’s theory is that by providing residents with energy-saving devices (such as smart thermostats that depend on the internet) in conjunction with the handouts they are giving to internet providers, there will be incentives for those companies to expand internet service to those households. While we support efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural areas that are currently unable to connect to broadband, using FOE funds for initiatives not related to energy efficiency is misguided.
Even as Focus on Energy hits record-setting results year after year, the program continues to be vulnerable to rollbacks. There are rumors (and more tangible signs) in the capitol that Assembly Republican legislators are discussing further cuts to the FOE program. The $7 million annual cut to the program last year will result in Wisconsin homeowners and businesses paying an additional $60 million on their energy bills over the next 10 years. Further cuts would only add to increased energy bills and lower energy efficiency Wisconsinites already experience. Energy efficiency improvements are one of the only tools available to businesses and residents in the state to reduce their energy bills. We need your help to ensure the legislature doesn’t take that opportunity away this year.
Stay tuned and contact Keith Reopelle at 608-251-7020 x11 if you have questions or would like to get involved.
A Challenge for the Future
To make a gift to the Doug La Follette’s Endowment Match, send your contribution to: Clean Wisconsin Attn: Doug La Follette Match 634 W Main Street #300 Madison, WI 53703 Or donate online at cleanwisconsin.org/dougsmatch
We all know the next four years will bring serious challenges to the environmental values we hold dear. Doug La Follette, one of Clean Wisconsin’s Founders, and patron of the Doug La Follette Environmental Speakers Program, is keen on ensuring the long-term sustainability of Clean Wisconsin’s work. Doug knows our work to safeguard Wisconsin’s clean air and water requires a long-term strategy and investment. Doug is investing in the future of Wisconsin’s environment by offering a matching grant for Clean Wisconsin’s Endowment Fund, and he’s challenging you to join him in that investment. With your contribution of $25, $100, $1,000 or $5,000 to meet this challenge, funds will be placed in an endowment where they will have an impact long into the future. Doug cares about amplifying important environmental messages, so he has invested in our twice-annual lecture series. Your support can help expand the popular Doug La Fol-
lette Environmental Speakers Program and other outreach and educational activities to highlight and bring attention to Wisconsin’s important environmental issues. Or your support could be designated for the longterm support of: • Our science department work, to ensure the public and policymakers have the latest research and data; • Our legal program activities, to ensure our state’s permitting laws and rules are properly enforced; • Our policy and program work, to protect Wisconsin from the harmful effects of climate change; • Our policy and program work, to ensure Wisconsin’s water is plentiful, is safe to drink, and free from pollution. Doug believes, like we do, that together we can do so much more than any one of us can accomplish alone. Winter 2017
Legislative priorities continued from cover Through our Action Network we’ve already told you how you can engage early to support the Groundwater Sustainability Act introduced by Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Rep. Cory Mason (DRacine). While the Groundwater Sustainability Act would be a great step toward solving our groundwater problem, Republican leaders have announced their intentions to reintroduce a bill that would roll-back groundwater protections by removing even more of state Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) authority to review high capacity well permits. We defeated a similar bill in the last session, but it is likely to reemerge this year. Clean Wisconsin is not just focused on legislative efforts to protect our groundwater from over-pumping. (See Forever Free on page 3.) In 2014 Clean Wisconsin, along with Midwest Environmental Advocates, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting the agency investigate groundwater contamination from polluted runoff in Kewaunee County. The attention brought by that petition has led to multiple efforts to find solutions to the polluted runoff that is rendering drinking water in the area unsafe. Clean Wisconsin will continue to be vigilant about government offering real solutions to this problem and we’ll continue to support the recommendations of the Groundwater Collaboration Work Group. Our efforts will be important as Gov. Scott Walker’s administration examines solutions that include rule-making and promotion of anaerobic digesters. The presence of lead pipes in Wisconsin is another important issue we expect the Legislature to address this session. The dangers of lead in drinking water was highlighted last year by the crisis in Flint, Mich. However, there are areas of Wisconsin where lead service lines to people’s homes are prevalent. Government solutions are already emerging. The DNR has made funds available to replace lead service lines, and the City of Milwaukee is offering filtration systems for residents. But the replacement of those lead pipes will continue to be an issue until Wisconsinites no longer face the prospect of lead-contaminated drinking water.
FIGHTING TO PRESERVE CORE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTIONS
PROMOTING CLEAN ENERGY AND EFFICIENCY
Clean Wisconsin is also working to tackle toxic PAH pollution in our watersheds. You can read more about this issue on the cover. With each of these important issues Clean Wisconsin will continue to build effective coalitions, seek bipartisan support, and work in the areas where we can be most effective in advancing and protecting environmental policies.
Wisconsin historically has been a national leader in energy efficiency thanks in large part to the highly successful statewide Focus on Energy program. Despite verified savings to ratepayers of more than $3 for every $1 invested in the Focus on Energy program, some legislators are intent on attacking the program or seek to siphon off FOE dollars for other purposes. Clean Wisconsin will continue to work hard to protect Wisconsin’s investment in energy efficiency.
A few lawmakers who have pushed regressive natural resources policies in the past are once again floating bad ideas aimed at seriously damaging core environmental protections. These legislators are pushing proposals to dismantle the DNR and advocating for measures to repeal the mining moratorium. These are terrible ideas that come from lawmakers who don’t have the best interests of our natural resources in mind. We plan to draw a lot of attention to these misguided proposals to stop them their tracks. We will also be on the lookout for attacks on our core environmental laws at the federal level. Already the new Trump administration appears to have critical EPA policies in the crosshairs, including the groundbreaking Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule.
LOCAL OPPORTUNITIES At Clean Wisconsin, we know there are many opportunities to advance environmental policy beyond state or federal politics. That’s why we are excited about the work we’re doing to support programs that protect water at the local level. Last year Clean Wisconsin helped form the Take Back Your Meds Milwaukee coalition, which is working to promote proper disposal of unused prescription drugs. When unused meds are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash they can end up in our waters; the UWMilwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences recently found the presence of prescription drugs in Lake Michigan. Yet when prescription drugs are left in the medicine cabinet, they can easily fall into the wrong hands. In fact, the easy availability of prescription drugs is a major factor in overdose, which is the leading cause of accidental death in Milwaukee. Our coalition is working to educate people about the importance of dropping-off unused meds at prescription drug drop box locations. We’re also pushing to establish prescription drug drop boxes in every pharmacy in Milwaukee County; for more information, visit takebackyourmedsmilwaukee.org.
Get the latest updates: Join our Action Network at cleanwisconsin.org/alerts
Thursday, March 9 Memorial Student Center University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie 8:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
2017 Planned Keynote Speakers
Healthy Soils, Clean Water
I Dreamed the Earth was Healed and Whole Again
Why the Red Cedar Watershed Will Not Fail: Practical Lessons from the LAKES Project
Jimmy Bramblett, Deputy Chief for Science and Technology, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Kathleen Dean Moore, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Emerita, Oregon State University
With UW-Stout Associate Professors: Nels Paulson, Sociology Tina Lee, Anthropology and Chris Ferguson,Economics
More info online at www.uwstout.edu/profed/redcedar www.cleanwisconsin.org 5
A night with celebrity chefs for
Join us for an evening of local food, first-rate cocktails and fun at
Epicurean Evening Madison,
our 4th annual celebrity chef gala benefitting our statewide work to protect and preserve Wisconsinâ€™s air, water, and natural heritage!
Thursday, October 5 Monona Terrace, Madison This canâ€™t-miss culinary event features a wine pull, live and silent auctions, and our ever-popular cocktail hour with specialty drinks by local mixologists.
GET TICKETS OR BECOME A SPONSOR TODAY Tickets are $150 per person or $1,200 per table of 8
Front of House Sponsors Hoyos Consulting LLC Be part of this list! See www.wisconsinepicureanevening.org/sponsors or contact Angela Cao, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-251-7020 x17
Dangerous Driveways continued from cover “Recent research in Milwaukee carried out by the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) shows that coal tar sealants are the primary source of toxic PAHs found in the area’s river sediments,” said Clean Wisconsin staff scientist Paul Mathewson. “While other sources of PAHs exist, the research indicates coal tar sealants are the primary source of PAHs in developed areas in the central and eastern parts of the United States, where they are most commonly used.”
CANCER RISK As previously reported in Defender, there is a link between the use of coal tar sealants and an increased risk of cancer, especially in children. Pavement sealants are worn down into small dust particles, which are easily tracked into homes and ground into carpets. Small children, who spend lots of time crawling around on the floor, are most susceptible to ingesting these toxic particles. Studies have shown that homes and apartments near parking lots sealed with coal tar-based sealants have PAH concentrations 25 times higher than homes and apartments adjacent to unsealed parking lots. Even more troubling, children who live in homes with coal tar-sealed parking lots or driveways from birth to the age of 6 have a 14 times higher lifetime cancer risk than children living near unsealed parking lots and driveways. A lifetime of exposure can lead to cancer rates 38 times higher than normal. “Coal tar sealants are a human health hazard, especially for young kids who are more likely to ingest dirt and dust,” Mathewson said. “We would be particularly concerned where the products are being used at schools, daycares, and other places where young children spend time.” THREAT TO WATER When snow melts and rain falls, PAH-laden dust from decaying coal tar sealants is washed into our waterways where it harms fish and other aquatic life. PAHs are a persistent organic pollutants that bind to sediment at the bottoms of rivers and lakes. Since 2014 Clean Wisconsin has tracked coal tar sealant research conducted around the country. PAH levels in waterbody sediment has been rising since the 1980s, but the primary source of contamination was unknown until 2004. That was when a team of USGS researchers linked the rising PAHs levels in water sediment in Austin, Texas to coal tar sealants. Similar research has since been replicated in locations throughout the central and eastern United States. “Early on, scientists were unable to identify where all this PAH contamination was coming from,” said Tyson Cook, Director of Science and Policy at Clean Wisconsin. “But now researchers can use various reliable techniques to pinpoint the sources of PAHs found in the environment, and in many cases coal tar sealants are the major culprit.” A recently published USGS study found that a rise in PAH levels in waterways around Milwaukee was the result of coal tar sealant use. Assisted by Milwaukee’s Metropolitan Sewerage District, USGS found that 77 percent of the PAH pollution they sampled in Milwaukee stream sediments could be traced to coal tar sealants. STATEWIDE RESEARCH Last fall Clean Wisconsin’s Cook and Mathewson went into the field to sample streambed sediment in the Root River in Racine, the Plover River near Stevens Point, and the Eau Claire River in northwestern Wisconsin. The Clean Wisconsin study seeks to compare PAH results from sediment collected where streams flow through urban areas, to the level of PAH in sediment collected in more rural areas. The results could help determine the extent to which PAH pollution across Wisconsin can be traced to coal tar sealant use. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh are currently analyzing the samples and the results are pending. VIABLE ALTERNATIVES There are safer substitutes for coal tar-based sealants. For starters, gravel parking lots and driveways are less expensive to maintain and
of the PAH pollution sampled in Milwaukee stream sediments could be traced to coal tar sealants
PAH concentrations in tar-based pavement sealants vs. asphalt-based
have minimal PAH levels. Asphalt-based pavement sealants have roughly 1,000 times lower PAH concentrations that coal tar-based sealants and are widely available. Many major improvement retailers, including Menards, Lowes, and Home Depot, recognize the health and environmental risks associated with tar-based sealants and have voluntarily stopped selling those products. At least 28 pavement and seal coating contractors throughout the state have signed a pledge saying they will not sell or use coal tar-based sealants. Several states and municipalities throughout the region, including Wisconsin’s Dane County, have banned the sale and use of coal tar sealants, and data show these bans are effective in reducing PAHs concentrations in water. Most recently, the Milwaukee Common Council unanimously voted to ban tar-based sealants in the city in response to the USGS study. To Mathewson and Cook, the evidence linking high PAH levels in our water bodies and in buildings to coal tar sealants, paired with the availability of safer alternatives, makes ending their coal tar sealant use in Wisconsin a common sense decision. “It will go a long way toward protecting our water and our health,” Cook said.
Clean Wisconsin is a proud member of www.cleanwisconsin.org 7
DEMYSTIFYING DIGESTERS Can they improve water quality? By Paul Mathewson Staff Scientist
Under the Lens
Last fall the Department of Natural Resources, the Public Service Commission, and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced they were seeking proposals from companies to build a large-scale manure digester to help address water quality problems in places where polluted agricultural runoff is impacting water quality. Since the November announcement, much has been said and written about the state’s plan to use anaerobic digesters to help curb the impact of manure spreading on ground and surface water. The discussion has raised some questions throughout the state: what are anaerobic digesters, and how can they help improve water quality? A manure digester functions similarly to a cow’s stomach, continuing the digestion that began in the cows themselves. A digester receives raw manure from cows and provides the optimal conditions for bacteria to break down the organic material. During the process, the bacteria produce biogas (a mixture of approximately 60 percent methane and 40 percent carbon dioxide) which is captured by the digester. The processed manure is separated into liquid and solid components, and the captured biogas can be burned like natural gas to produce electricity for use on the farm or put into the electrical grid. The nutrient-rich liquid manure can be used as fertilizer on farm fields, and the solid manure can be used for compost or bedding material. So, what are the environmental benefits of a manure digester? The two biggest benefits of a manure digester are reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and odors. Digesters allow the natural release of methane — a potent greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide — to take place in a controlled setting where it can be captured and used, rather than being released directly into the atmosphere. Any biogasproduced electricity that ends up on the electrical grid displaces energy produced by traditional means such as coal combustion, which reduces global warming pollution. Digesters also provide the proper conditions for bacteria that convert the compounds responsible for odors into biogas to work more effectively. Therefore, the processed manure that is eventually spread on fields has
less odor than unprocessed manure. Digesters can also kill some, but not all, disease-causing microbes such as salmonella and E. coli. The effectiveness in killing these pathogens depends on the type of digester: mesophilic digesters, which operate in the range of 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit, are less effective at disinfecting than thermophilic di-
Wisconsin has more manure digesters than any other state, with 37 of the country’s 242 operational livestock manure digesters gesters, which operate at temperatures greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermophilic digesters are more expensive to operate since they require additional heating elements; most digesters in Wisconsin are mesophilic. Digesters do not change the nutrient (primarily nitrogen and phosphorus) content of manure. However, digested manure can be treated by a nutrient removal system, which can take out some of the nutrients before the manure is spread on fields. Even without an nutrient removal system, digesters allow manure applicators to analyze the nutrient content of the processed manure and make better decisions about application rates, which can help reduce excess nutrient runoff. Wisconsin has more manure digesters than any other state in the country with 37 of the country’s 242 operational livestock manure digesters as of May 2016. While they do have some good environmental benefits, digesters are not a “magic bullet” for solving Wisconsin’s agricultural water pollution problems. If emerging technologies that allow for nutrient removal and pathogen reduction in digested manure are used effectively, then digesters can be a part of an overall effort to reduce water pollution. However, efforts to implement conservation practices on the landscape to reduce runoff, applying manure at the right time and in appropriate quantities, and efficient use of commercial fertilizers are important to reduce pollution of Wisconsin’s groundwater and surface waters.
CLEAN WISCONSIN WELCOMES NEW STAFF ATTORNEY Clean Wisconsin welcomed Evan Feinauer as Staff Attorney in January. Evan comes to Clean Wisconsin from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), where he served as a Litigation Fellow. While at NRDC, Evan helped litigate in federal court a Safe Drinking Water Act citizen lawsuit in response to the Flint water crisis. Evan also spent time as an intern with the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice. In his role as Staff Attorney, Evan will provide legal
counsel and representation to the organization on our current work dealing with water quality and quantity issues across the state. A Wisconsin native from the rural environs near Omro, Evan holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from UW-Madison, an M.S. in Ethics and Public Policy from Suffolk University, and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. Clean Wisconsin is pleased to welcome Evan as a member of the staff! .
Join our email Action Network at www.cleanwisconsin.org/alerts 8
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The Kailo Fund Anonymous
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Amy Crofts Scott Froehlke Karen & Mike Knetter Gary Goyke & Mary Rottier Patricia Ryan Gof & Mary Thomson Sheila & John Young
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Thank you for your dedicated generosity to our work! To become a member or for more information regarding the benefits of the Environmental Pillars Society, contact development director Angela Cao at 608-251-7020 x17 or email@example.com.
Being a Corporate Guardian is an excellent investment in your business as you support our protecting Wisconsin’s air, water, and natural heritage! We encourage you to learn more about and do business with our wonderful Corporate Guardians!
Hoyos Consulting LLC hoyosconsulting.com Madison
schonheitgardens.com Sun Prairie
greatdanepub.com Madison, Wausau
crossroadscommunityfarm.com Cross Plains
Interested in joining these businesses? Contact Angela Cao at 608-251-7020 x17 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.cleanwisconsin.org 9
Join us for an evening of local food, first-rate cocktails and fun
A night with celebrity chefs for
Epicurean Evening Milwaukee
Our 2nd annual celebrity chef gala on the shore of Lake Michigan benefitting our statewide work to protect and preserve Wisconsinâ€™s air, water, and natural heritage!
Thursday, June 8 Discovery World, Milwaukee This must-attend culinary event features a wine pull, live auction, and our ever-popular cocktail hour with specialty drinks by local mixologists. GET TICKETS OR BECOME A SPONSOR TODAY Tickets are $150 per person or $1,200 per table of 8
Front of House Sponsors Hoyos Consulting LLC
Be part of this list! See www.wisconsinepicureanevening.org/sponsors or contact Angela Cao, email@example.com, 608-251-7020 x17
Defender is the quarterly member newsletter of Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest and oldest environmental nonprofit.