The anticipated opening of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area to the public from April 12 to May 27 is exciting news for many however, we do have one word of caution.
Over CSWAB’s objections, the evaluation and assessment of the human food chain – specifically consumption of plants from food gardens, wild edibles and medicinal plants – was not required by the WDNR in the establishment of soil remediation goals at Badger Army Ammunition Plant. As a result, the potential risk to human health associated with this route of exposure has not been fully assessed.
WDNR officials we spoke with said that they believe the consumption of wild edibles at Badger is NOT a threat to public health and a more comprehensive answer is forthcoming. However due to the lack of analysis for this specific activity, CSWAB is discouraging adults and children from gathering and consuming plants, particularly in areas that are known to have residual contamination in surface soils.
The principal example that we are aware of is the Settling Ponds, Final Creek and Spoils Disposals Area located near the southern boundary of the plant property. A significant portion of this area is identified as open to the public in the 2014 Spring Access Map for gathering wild edibles such as mushrooms and berries.
The issue is an important one. If adults and children are successful in gathering edible plants at Badger, it is reasonable to expect that this activity could be repeated over time constituting a potential chronic exposure – not unlike when someone finds a favorite fishing spot.
For other activities suggested by the WDNR such as hiking, bird watching, biking, studying nature, and taking photographs, the Army conducted cleanup with these anticipated activities in mind. Cleanup methods and goals for these low-impact recreational activities were reviewed by health officials, approved by the WDNR and deemed safe.