Farms, Fertilizer, and the Fight for Clean WaterThis episode about nitrate pollution in Wisconsin’s Central Sands region is the fifth piece in...Farms, Fertilizer, and the Fight for Clean Water
This episode about nitrate pollution in Wisconsin’s Central Sands region is the fifth piece in the series Ground Truths: Stories from Wisconsin’s Frontlines of Environmental Action. This six-episode podcast series highlights environmental justice issues across the diverse communities and landscapes of Wisconsin, from Milwaukee to the Northwoods. The series is supported in part by a grant from Wisconsin Humanities, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Series editors: Carly Griffith (lead), Clare Sullivan (lead), Ben Iuliano, Justyn Huckleberry, Marisa Lanker, and Juniper Lewis.
Map of Wisconsin with counties outlined in gray and Portage County, a large site of nitrate pollution, highlighted in green.
Wisconsin state map. Portage County is highlighted in green. Map design by Carly Griffith.
When you picture the agricultural landscapes of America’s Dairyland, you may imagine rolling hills dotted with red barns, gently swaying corn fields, and grazing cattle. Many people are drawn to the rural beauty and sense of place that such landscapes offer. But living alongside agriculture—especially an agriculture that’s been expanding in scale and intensity in recent decades—also presents challenges.
Nitrate pollution is a problem that plagues many rural communities, especially those that rely on groundwater from wells as their main source of drinking water. In this podcast, we explore nitrate groundwater contamination from industrial agriculture in the Central Sands of Wisconsin. In Nelsonville, a small village of about 150 people in Portage County, Wisconsin, one particular farm has come under scrutiny: Gordondale Farms, a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, that houses about 2,500 dairy cows. To learn more about nitrate pollution and its public health consequences, we speak to Lisa Anderson, Dr. George Kraft, and Adam Voskuil.