News Release


Megan Severson,
Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center

2,793,000 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Wisconsin’s Waterways

For Immediate Release

Madison, WI--Industrial facilities dumped 2,793,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into Wisconsin’s waterways in 2012, according to a new report by Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center.

The “Wasting Our Waterways” report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Wisconsin and across the nation.

“Wisconsin’s waterways should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Ben Knuth, with Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters.  The first step to curb this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”

The Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center report on toxic pollutants discharged to America’s waters is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available.

Major findings of the report include:

  • The Castle Rock Flowage was the watershed hit hardest in the country by reproductive toxic discharges, receiving 560,000 pounds of the industrial solvent methanol from a facility owned by NewPage in Wisconsin Rapids.
  • Thilmany Paper was the worst toxic polluter in Wisconsin, dumping 8,279 pounds of toxic pollution into the Lower Fox River watershed in 2012.

Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to infertility. The toxic chemicals dumped in Wisconsin include methanol, which can affect the way children grow, learn, and behave.

The report recommends several steps to curb this tide of toxic pollution – including requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer alternatives.  But Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all Wisconsin’s waters.

As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 53% of streams in Wisconsin and 400,000 Wisconsinites’ drinking water are now at risk of having no protection from pollution under the federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Wisconsin’s waterways and risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.

But a wide range of polluting industries in Wisconsin is vigorously opposing the clean water rule. 

“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Knuth.  “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Wisconsinites to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington, D.C.  The future of our lakes, like Lake Monona, hangs in the balance.”

The public comment period on the clean water rule began the day before Earth Day, and it is still open right now. 

“Wisconsin’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Knuth.  “If we want our lakes to be clean for future generations of Wisconsinites, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”



Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open spaces.