Letter to the editor: Our drinking water is at risk

By LEE VAN LANDUYT | Hillsboro

Without water, there can be no life! Without clean drinking water, we are dust. Approximately 90 percent of everyone’s body is made up of water. All living things require water to survive. Where there is no water, there is no life. History and geography prove this inescapable fact. When the oil pipeline was first being laid across the Great Plains several years ago, threatening to contaminate the largest aquifer in North America, the Native Americans are quoted as saying that “water is life.” When will we European invaders learn from their wisdom?

Gov. Tony Evers, when he took office, declared 2019 to be “The Year of Clean Drinking Water.” State statistics report that 1.7 million residents rely on private wells, and 47 percent of those wells do not meet acceptable health standards. We here in the southwestern part of the state are particularly affected by these findings, since most of us rely on groundwater for our homes and businesses.

When my wife and I built our home in rural southwestern Wisconsin 22 years ago, it was built on the site of an old farmstead that was established more than 100 years before our purchase of the property. The person doing our well drilling said that there had been two wells on the property prior to the one he was about to drill. Our current well is 470 feet deep. The previous ones were considerably shallower. I remember him saying that “all the easy water is gone.” I am sure that this is true for everyone else in this area, including those who live in the valleys.

When larger industries or farms locate in our areas without proper regulations in place, they are likely to affect the groundwater where they are located, but also affect residents in the entire region, since groundwater flows below the surface similarly to the water that flows on the surface. A large industry or mega-farm miles away is quite capable of contaminating water in all adjacent areas either by drawing out vast amounts of ground or surface water or by dumping wastewater and other contaminants into the ground or nearby rivers. Wealthy industrialists living elsewhere can locate their industries anywhere they wish. But we, the residents of this area, have put down roots and live here year ‘round. Many of the local residents have been here for generations and cherish and want to protect their ancestral homes and resources.

Gov. Evers has wisely stated his desire to aggressively address this problem. Will the state’s legislative body do the same? Will our elected senators and representatives protect us, their constituents, or will they bow to big business? Will they do the bidding of rich outsiders who care little for our community or local residents here in southwestern Wisconsin? It is time for all citizens to demand that our livelihood and wellbeing be our legislator’s first priority and not the promise of riches and reelection for themselves. Vigilance and participation in the electoral process is the only way to ensure our individual and communal health and safety! Listen but especially watch what actions are taken by our elected legislators. Actions do speak much louder than words!

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