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EPA asked to investigate groundwater contamination (UPDATE)

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (AP) — Six environmental groups want federal regulators to investigate groundwater contamination in Kewaunee County.

The groups have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exercise emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act to investigate their concerns. The petitioners say the state Department of Natural Resources has failed to protect the drinking water for residents of Kewaunee County, which is home to about 200 dairy farms, including 15 large-scale operations.

The groups said manure from dairy cows, calves, heifers and beef cattle produces 12.4 million pounds of nitrogen annually, citing DNR figures.

The county tested 483 wells last year and found nearly 31 percent contained bacteria or nitrates that exceeded state and federal health standards.

“Everyone deserves safe, clean and reliable drinking water, but Kewaunee County residents gamble with their health simply by turning on the faucets in their homes,” Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney with Clean Wisconsin, said in a statement. “We’re seeking federal action to help create a long-term solution to what’s unfortunately been a long-term problem for thousands of people in the area.”An EPA spokeswoman tells the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1wuFhF3 ) the agency is reviewing the groups’ petition.

DNR spokesman Bill Cosh said the “DNR operates its permit programs to meet all requirements of current laws and rules.”

Besides Clean Wisconsin, the organizations include Midwest Environmental Advocates, the Clean Water Action Council of Northeastern Wisconsin, Environmental Integrity Project, Midwest Environmental Defense Center and Kewaunee CARES.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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