In Wisconsin

Wisconsin Law and Actions

Wisconsin Environment has been taking actions to try to prevent the expansion of Rosendale Dairy, which is located near Oshkosh. Rosendale Dairy is trying to gain permission to have 8,000 cows on their farm which would create 90 million gallons of manure per year and could significantly impact the condition of surrounding water bodies. Wisconsin Environment has created a petition to Governor Jim Doyle asking him not to allow factory farms to expand.

EPA Assessment of Water Quality requires states, territories, and tribes to compile a list of their impaired waters every two years. TMDLs are created for impaired waters according to their priority level. Silver Lake, Half Moon Lake, and Tainter Lake are all on the 303 (d) list of impaired waters put together by the EPA and have programs in place to reduce the levels of phosphorous in the lakes.

The DNR phosphorous criteria committee is working to establish the allowed levels of phosphorous for lakes in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Association of Lakes is part of this committee.

A bill aimed at reducing phosphorous loading of lakes was introduced on May 27, 2009. The bill would eliminate the use of phosphorous-containing cleaning products in households, which can account for 10-20% of the phosphorous entering water treatment systems. Water treatment only removes a small amount of phosphorous, so a lot of it is released into the environment.

The Clean Lakes bill was put into effect on April 14, 2009. It prohibits the sale and use of phosphorous-containing lawn fertilizer in order to reduce phosphorous loading of lakes and rivers. Phosphorous is not absolutely necessary in lawn fertilizers and a single pound of phosphorous can support 500 pounds of algae growth.

In March 2006, the DNR’s manure management discharge rules became law. The rules affect how Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations deal with their manure in order to reduce runoff and the contamination of drinking water and lakes.

In 2002, Wisconsin passed a policy and rules to reduce polluted runoff, especially from agriculture. However, farms did not have to follow those rules unless they received at least a 70% cost share to cover the expense of changing practices to reduce polluted runoff. The Wisconsin Association of Lakes and other groups advocated for a total of $28 million to fund various aspects of the reduction of polluted runoff.

*This is not a complete list of the actions that are being taken to reduce harmful algal blooms.


Harmful Algal Blooms in the News

May 2010 – Geotextile fabric barriers will be placed around BB Clarke beach and Bernies beach on Lake Monona starting in June in an effort to keep blue-green algae off Madison beaches and reduce the number of beach closings due to algal blooms. Another barrier will be placed on Lake Mendota near the Center for Limnology to hopefully stop algae from traveling into Lake Monona. If this is successful, barriers could be placed along other beaches on Lake Mendota and Lake Monona to keep blue-green algae out. (full story)

July 2009 – Nine beaches, including the Memorial Union, were closed due to blue-green algae. (full story)

July 2008 – Brianne Schuetz went swimming in Lake Mendota at the Memorial Union one evening with her friends. A day later she suffered symptoms that were likely caused by blue-green algae poisoning and included a rash, shortness of breath, aching joints, and nausea. Brianne’s case was the fourth reported that year. (full story)

July 2008 – Three Madison beaches (BB Clarke, Olbrich, and Warner) were closed for nearly a week due to cyanobacterial blooms. Kirsti Sorsa said the blue-green algae problem in 2008 was much worse than in previous years. (full story)

June 2006 – An algae advisory was issued for all Dane County lakes and was to remain in place for the entire summer. Warning signs were also placed at beaches, though the only one actually closed at the time was Picnic Point Beach. (full story)

August 2005 – Solar Bees, devices designed to reduce the number of blue-green algae in lakes, were installed in Lake Monona. They were given to the city for a free summer-long test. While they did help, they are made for smaller water bodies and probably would not be much help for Lakes Monona and Mendota. (full story)

July 2005 – A man was hospitalized after swimming in Lake Wingra to train for the Ironman. Tests showed that some blue-green algae were present in the water but not in very high numbers and additional tests were being done to see if algal toxins were present. (full story)

June 2004 – One dog had seizures and another died after swimming in Lake Kegonsa. Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, and Microcystis were all present in water samples sent to the State Lab of Hygiene, though it was not yet confirmed that it was the cyanobacteria that actually caused the dog’s death. Lake Kegonsa beaches were closed at that time. (full story)

Summer 2002 – Dane Rogers, a teenager from Cottage Grove, went swimming in an algae-covered golf course pond with four of his friends. Forty eight hours later, he died from heart failure after going into shock and having seizures. The Dane County coroner determined that he most likely died from ingesting cyanobacterial toxins while swimming in the pond. Tests found the cyanobacteria Anabaena flos-aquae and the toxin Anatoxin-a in his system.  This was the first report of a human death in the United States from cyanobacteria. One of his friends that was with him, the only other one that was completely submerged in the water, complained of stomach ache and diarrhea but did not die. (full story)