The Army has announced that it is disbanding and reorganizing the local Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for Badger Army Ammunition Plant. Comprised of representatives of local town, village and county government and residents who live near Badger, the RAB was organized almost 20 years ago by the Army and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is the same community-led board that successfully pushed for many of the enforceable conditions found in a facility-wide permit that was just issued by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).
Late last week, the WDNR conditionally approved a proposal by the U.S. Army to install a public water supply system and the phased shut-down of active groundwater cleanup affecting three neighboring rural townships. The approval contains a significant number of conditions that must be met and are the responsibility of the Army. The newly-formed RAB will be responsible for overseeing and providing public comment on the Army’s compliance with these conditions.
To justify the board shakedown, the Army sought the assistance of the same pricey Madison-based public relations firm that it hired to promote municipal water as a solution to Badger’s groundwater woes. Under the Army’s direction, the firm conducted a small survey of 30 pre-selected participants. The resulting self-generated report was predictably critical of the RAB and is being used by the Army to justify its decision to dismantle and build a new board.
Current board members, including local government and residents who live in the path of the contamination, will have to re-apply for a position on the Army’s new board. The slate of new members will be approved – or not – by the Army. As a result, some members may be booted off altogether after decades of volunteer service to the community and environmental protection.
Current members of the Badger RAB include Ron Lins (Town of Prairie du Sac and RAB co-chair), Craig J. Hamilton (Town of Merrimac), Laura Olah (Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger), Michele Hopp (Village of Merrimac), Judy Ashford (Sauk County Board), Rick Richard (Bluffview), Tim Colby (Town of Sumpter), Steve Hess (Town of Baraboo), and William Wenzel (Village of Prairie du Sac). Local residents currently serving on the board include Mary Carol Solum, Mary Jane Koch, Ken Lins, Chris Hanson, Charlie Wilhelm, Richard Anderson, Lance Delaney, Bill Stehling and Laverne Kindschi.
It’s no coincidence that at a time when it is more important than ever that citizens remain vigilant in protecting public health, clean air, water, and land that the Army wants to derail the single venue that residents have to sit down and regularly talk with health officials, environmental regulators, and the military about cleanup.
While the WDNR’s permit includes a multitude of conditions that the Army will have to fulfill – if the Army has its way, no one will be watching the henhouse.