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Letters to The Platteville Journal for July 17
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His need for clean water

As a small business owner who is very reliant on clean water in Spring Green, I am concerned and disappointed with a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to not propose new regulations to protect our waterways from industrial animal farm runoff.

Industrial animal farms — also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation or CAFOs — raise large volumes of cows, chickens and/or pigs on a relatively small amount of land. Unfortunately, they are notorious for over-concentrating animal manure in liquid “lagoons” that seep into our groundwater, lakes and rivers.

In a court-approved settlement in 2010, the EPA was required to broaden the definition of a CAFO and to ensure more stringent permitting. By the EPA’s own estimates, 43 percent of Americans have drinking water contaminated by pathogens such as E. coli or salmonella from CAFOs. This is in part because fewer than 60 percent of industrial farms are even required to operate under EPA permits, allowing these industrial farms to over-concentrate their manure lagoons without regard to nearby waterways.

Instead of following the 2010 court order, the EPA opted to merely review existing agriculture programs surrounding the Chesapeake Bay. As a Wisconsinite, I believe that our water deserves the same attention and protection as the rivers and streams in Virginia or Maryland.

As a small business owner, I was counting on the EPA’s new ruling to protect my business. I am the owner of Wisconsin Canoe Company. We rent canoes, kayaks, and give guided river tours. Since 2005, our business has expanded from just 10 canoes to over 100 canoes and kayaks. Every season, our business alone puts over 5,000 people on the water while upwards of 50,000 people choose to camp out on the Wisconsin River, all of which are bringing tourist dollars into the region.

Sadly, without help from the EPA our business and the local economy are threatened by CAFOs since our river drains one-third of the Dairy State. When these industrial farms are allowed to pollute our rivers and streams with manure runoff, the end result is massive algae blooms that destroys the aesthetic value of our rivers, depletes the river’s oxygen, kills native fish populations, and harms every single business and local community dependent on camping, fishing, and nature tourism.

I don’t believe that government should overregulate businesses or make it especially burdensome to grow the economy and create jobs. I just want a level playing field. I believe that any business should be required to pay to clean up their own mess.

Right now, my business and your tax dollars are paying for the manure runoff of CAFOs. My business pays for their pollution in lost revenue, the local economy pays because the pollution means fewer jobs, and your tax dollars pay for pollution cleanup efforts. As a homeowner, I can’t force my neighbor to pay my trash bill, but for some reason CAFO owners think we should pay for theirs.

Even though the EPA failed to act this time, we must still make our voices heard. We must tell President Obama to fulfill his 2008 commitment to “strictly regulate pollution from large factory livestock farms.” As industrial animal farms continue to put out a billion tons of manure a year, Americans relying on clean water for drinking, recreation, and business will suffer until action is taken. With your voice putting pressure on the President, hopefully we can stop this harm sooner rather than later.

Ryan Schmudlach
Wisconsin Canoe Co., Spring Green

Open records, or not

The Lafayette County Town of Kendall board is limiting the public’s right to examine records and reports prior to passage.

Recently, at an “open meeting,” documents for examination were requested again. The Open Records Law statute clearly states (19.35) “… Any requester has a right to inspect any record …”

Once again, the board collectively bypassed voters’ requests to see public records, with a strongly worded refusal. Sup. Jackie Steffes was given a copy of the statute, which she handed back without circulating it to other officials.

Minutes, financial and clerk reports were distributed to the board, and — as if in secret conclave — read among themselves while the public sat in uncomprehending silence. The public has a right to question bills paid from taxpayer funds and also question other official actions.

Does the board — chairman Micah Bahr and Sups. Steffes and Don Christiansen — really want to place itself in noncompliance with a state law designed to protect taxpayer rights? Is the board unable to process information or is it retreating into a power-obsessed performance?

More to the point: Does the board have anything to hide?

Colleen Schultz
Mineral Point

Still no Pledge

I have just read the results of The Platteville Journal’s poll about whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited prior to the beginning of every Common Council Meeting, and it seems to be overwhelming that the good citizens of Platteville agree with me — 134 yes, 21 no and 4 “I don’t know.”

I was alive during the 1960s and remember the Vietnam Conflict. Yes, it was not the most popular conflict that the USA had gotten into, but the men and women who fought during that time did so because they were ordered to. They followed their orders and fought a valiant fight. Some gave the greatest sacrifice of all, but they were all American soldiers, our American soldiers.

The ‘60s was a very turbulent time; we all remember Kent State, burning draft cards, “burn the bra” and moving to Canada. But times have changed and we have grown more knowledgeable, more informed and more tolerant.

It is time those of us who did not put on the uniform of one of our armed services to forgive and, since we are still in a war in Afghanistan, and support those who are in harm’s way. The best way I can see that is to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their honor. What better way to show our children what it is like to be an American and what the Flag means to us? We stand and recite the pledge or sing the National Anthem before every baseball, football and soccer game.

Michael V. Mayo
375 S. Chestnut St., Platteville

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.