Recall Memo: Walker Water Everywhere but NOT a Drop to Drink!

Sometimes I am not so sure there isn’t a weekend editor or two at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who enjoys a bit of irony and edits the news to grand effect!

And the front page of the Saturday June 2nd edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel LOCAL section is the epitome of such irony.

One of the major news stories on that front page was ‘Viruses found in untreated water‘ by Lee Berquist. Unless you read the article you wouldn’t realize that this wasn’t some third world country…or impoverished rural area…but 14 communities HERE in Wisconsin. The online version and the sub-headline are more informative.

A study was conducted by the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation and the University of California Davis found human viruses in nearly 25% of the water samples taken in 14 Wisconsin communities. The fact that these viruses are sufficiently dangerous that they can cause serious gastrointestinal illnesses and put the lives of the elderly at risk is scary enough. The fact that the state legislature had an opportunity to rectify this and didn’t is impossible to understand.

The results of the study come in the wake of action a year ago in the state Legislature when lawmakers rejected regulations by the Department of Natural Resources that would have required all Wisconsin communities to disinfect their drinking systems.

The DNR, under the administration of former Gov. Jim Doyle, used the work of the study’s lead author Mark A. Borchardt to advance the regulations. Borchardt is a microbiologist who works for the U.S. Agricultural Research Service in Marshfield.

In May 2011, the Legislature broke along party lines, with Democrats arguing that the regulations would protect public health, and Republicans contending that the decision should be left in the hands of the communities themselves.

There are 66 Wisconsin municipalities with a total population of about 85,000 that do not disinfect water. Most are small, with many serving only a few hundred customers.

So we potentially have 85,000 Wisconsinites in jeopardy due to contaminated drinking water, but in the name of small government, tax reductions, etc…we are willing to let them remain at risk. Can’t be? Well yes, intentionally:

Rep. Erik Severson (R-Star Prairie), an emergency room physician, lauded the rigor of the study, but said the results shouldn’t mean mandatory disinfection.

“It goes back to choice for the community,” Severson said. “The communities have to make the decision.”

In some cases, taxpayers might be willing to put up with an occasional day off from work or a case of diarrhea to avoid paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in costs in upgrades per household, he said.

In Kewaskum, Matt Heiser, the village administrator, said officials haven’t conducted a poll of residents. But he thinks most prefer the way it is now. The village uses chlorine periodically when crews work on the system.

“We get calls from our residents who taste and smell it and complain they don’t like it,” Heiser said.

Really? People would accept getting sick? Possibly deathly ill? Perhaps die? Instead of knowing they have clean water?

Intentionally…in the name of ideology…Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature are rolling the dice on health issues!


Heading the page with the untreated water article was a human interest article by Laurel Walker about a Waukesha man, Andy Stenz. This article also occurs immediately above the list of online articles. Mr. Stenz is walking the width of Wisconsin, from the Mississippi River at La Crosse to Milwaukee County’s McKinley Beach on Lake Michigan to raise money for…clean water in third world countries! I haven’t mapped his route but there is a good chance he will walk near one of the 14 communities in the untreated water article…and he will almost certainly pass through one of the 66 communities who don’t treat their water.

I commend Andy Stenz…it is a wonderful action that he is undertaking…thank you Mr. Stenz… and I am NOT connecting him with the recall except in the irony of the MJS’ placement of the articles.

PS For those of you that don’t have knowledge of water politics in Wisconsin, there is also a second layer of irony in Mr. Stenz being from Waukesha…


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