2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 11:14:03 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Mercury Contamination from Badger
[This was posted to the listserve by Laura Olah, olah@speagle.com]

For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:
Laura Olah, Executive Director, CSWAB (608) 643-3124

Highest Mercury Contamination In Wisconsin River
**From Badger Army Ammunition Plant

MERRIMAC -- Methyl mercury levels in sediments at Gruber's Grove Bay --
the outfall for all industrial and sanitary wastewater generated during 
Badger Army Ammunition Plant's active years -- are 30 times higher than 
those found throughout the Wisconsin River, creating a toxic environment 
for aquatic life but posing no significant risk to human health, the 
WDNR said.

"It is a number that it is a high concern for the environment, but not 
necessarily to swimmers and human contact," reported Lee Liebenstein, 
contaminated sediments team leader with the WDNR.   According to a 
Preliminary Risk Assessment prepared by the WDNR, health risks related 
to ingestion and dermal contact with contaminated sediments are very 
low. Wisconsin Division of Health officials agreed this exposure is not 
expected to cause harmful health effects.

"Mercury, in all forms, may enter the body directly through the skin," 
said Laura Olah, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around 
Badger (CSWAB), a local organization promoting the restoration and 
cleanup of the Badger plant. "Since risk levels are based on information 
that is currently available, there is always some uncertainty associated 
with them."

Methyl mercury levels in Gruber's Grove Bay were found as high as 149
ug/kg (micrograms per kilogram) compared to an average concentration of 
4.7 ug/kg found in the Wisconsin River below Rhinelander.  The highest 
level of methyl mercury previously found in the Wisconsin River was 8.1 
ug/kg.  Gruber's Grove Bay is part of Lake Wisconsin, an impoundment of 
the Wisconsin River.

Organic mercury in the environment builds up in aquatic food chains and 
concentrates in the flesh of fish.  Although mercury levels in fish at 
Gruber's Grove Bay are elevated, the WDNR said a fish advisory is not 
necessary.  Average mercury concentrations in largemouth bass and 
walleye collected in Gruber's Grove Bay by the WDNR were higher than 
levels in comparable sized fish of these species collected in other 
portions of Lake Wisconsin, however none of the fish samples exceeded 
the mercury advisory limit of 0.5 ug/g.

 "Long term exposure to organic mercury can permanently damage the
brain, kidneys, and developing fetuses," Olah said.  "The form of
mercury and the way people are exposed to it determine which of these
health effects will be more severe."

Based on direction from the WDNR, Badger's contractors will be
conducting additional study to further define the extent of
contamination at Gruber's Grove.  In the meantime, CSWAB continues to
press the WDNR to require additional testing of nearby drinking water
wells instead of waiting until pending studies are complete.  So far the 
WDNR has declined, saying risks to nearby drinking water wells are 
minimal.  "(We) don't believe these compounds will leach from the soil 
and migrate to the water table and nearby drinking water wells," the 
WDNR said.

Other sediment contaminants found at levels hazardous to aquatic life
were lead, copper, and ammonia.  "Ammonia is a very high number, but 
it's hard to know if the ammonia is a contaminant of concern or not," 
the WDNR said.

*   *   *

Laura Olah, Executive Director
Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
E12629 Weigand's Bay South
Merrimac, WI  53561
phone (608)643-3124
fax (608)643-0005 alt fax (608)643-2682
Email: olah@speagle.com
Website: http://www.speagle.com/cswab
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