|Posted by richardmoore on July 24, 2012 at 1:00 AM|
State Representatives Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) and Jon Richards (DMilwaukee) today called for an audit of the Department of Natural Resources’ regulations regarding human sewage application to farm fields.
The request comes as a result of a disturbing report that toplevel DNR administrators refused to have the Department of Justice investigate waste hauler Herr Environmental, which allegedly spread sewage in a Jefferson County field at three times the permitted amount, risking contamination of the water supply for nearby residents.
“The health of my neighbors was at risk here, and it seems that the DNR chose to look the other way,” said Jorgensen. “Their first priority is to protect the public and our land and water, not to protect a business from bad publicity or serious repercussions for environmental violations.”
DNR investigators had recommended that the Herr Environmental case be turned over to the Department of Justice, but top officials in the Secretary’s office asked that the company only receive the minimum fine of $4,338. Had the matter gone to the Attorney General, fines could have reached $40,000.
“We need to know if this is how the DNR regularly handles environmental complaints, or if this is some sort of anomaly,” said Richards. “My hope is that with a complete evaluation of the DNR enforcement practices, we can ensure fairness and a greater focus on public safety in the future.”
Jorgensen and Richards today sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Senator Kathleen Vinehout and Representative Samantha Kerkman, requesting that they direct the Legislative Audit Bureau to review how the DNR’s enforcement practices have changed over time, including when cases are referred to the Department of Justice and whether practices address high-priority violations and repeat offenses; analyze trends in the amount and type of wastewater applied to farm fields; and assess the data systems used to track permits, inspections and enforcement. The lawmakers, who also serve on the Audit Committee, noted it has been more than 20 years since the LAB last reviewed the DNR’s regulation of sewage spreading.