Students To Oppose Pollution (S.T.O.P.)

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Students To Oppose Pollution (S.T.O.P.) was an internship program established by Wisconsin's Department of Justice that ran through the summer months of 1970. The program utilized the talents and energy of 23 college students with backgrounds in environmental science, engineering and law to investigate pollution complaints. Led by Attorney General Robert W. Warren, these students assisted Warren in his mission to identify Wisconsin's pollution, regulate law violations, as well as abate pollution.

History

During the 1960s, Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson became well known for his advocacy in protecting the environment.[1] His efforts led to the growing public awareness and concern for the environment which then led to the events of April 22, 1970 where 20 million Americans protested against pollution and the deterioration of the environment. That day would become known as Earth Day.[2] S.T.O.P. began that summer of the same year. It was highly publicized in news articles that no such program existed in Wisconsin yet. Under the guide of Attorney General Robert W. Warren, S.T.O.P. kick started on June 15, 1970.

Robert W. Warren

Robert Willis Warren (August 30, 1925 – August 20, 1998) was the Attorney General of Wisconsin from January 6, 1969 to August 27, 1974. Warren was born in Raton, New Mexico, but resided in Wisconsin after his studies. In 1950, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Macalester College, a Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota the following year, and in 1956 he received a doctorate in law from the University of Wisconsin Law School.[3]

During the summer of 1970, Warren's office, being short staffed, decided to start the S.T.O.P. program which employed college student interns and volunteers in his efforts to investigate and reduce the pollution epidemic in Wisconsin.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, the environmental movement played a huge role in American politics.[4] One problem Warren faced in 1970 was that his environmental activism was considered by his opponent, Democrat Thomas Jacobson, as a ploy for his political career as the Republican candidate.[5]

Internship

The summer program was a paid internship through the Attorney General's office. The internship was a 10-week project that paid $3 an hour. Participation in the program was highly desirable for college students who were interested in the field. There were approximately 150 applicants, but limited amount of positions available. Of those 150, only 23 students were accepted. Rejected applications were prevalent due to the lack of open positions. Accepted and considered applicants were picked based off their scholastic backgrounds as well as their specialized training and experiences with ecologically oriented organizations. The students in the program consisted of 10 law students (UW-Madison, Marquette, and University of Iowa), 4 ecology students (UW-Milwaukee, Purdue, and UW-Madison), and 3 zoology students (UW-Madison). The remaining 6 students were a media major student (UW-Madison), a graduate student in forestry (UW-Madison), a graduate student in environmental communications (UW-Madison), a civil engineering student (UW-Madison), a chemistry graduate (Platteville State University), and the last student attended Marquette University with no major.[6] The summer program ended on August 28, 1970.

Investigations

The investigations done by the student interns focused mainly on air and water pollution. Complaint centers opened throughout Wisconsin where citizens could formally make a complaint in their neighborhood. Upon receiving complaints, student interns would investigate and document their findings in pairs of one environmental student with one law student. Many of the challenges the interns had were not being able to collect enough data to formally send a warning to the perpetrators. The industries being investigated had varied reactions, but never hostile. Many would say they are doing something about the alleged complaint, however sometimes that may not have been the case.[7]

It was found that many of the pollution in Wisconsin came from paper mills, foundries, waste factories, and cranberry marshes. To help stop pollution, S.T.O.P. worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to issue orders for changes to be made. Often times these orders were met within a certain time frame and follow-up procedures took place. For example, Mr. Goldberg's Foundries in Plymouth and Grafton, Wisconsin, had complaints of dust, dirt, and odors coming from the foundries' emissions. The Department of Natural Resources then issued an order which gave the company until June 1, 1973 to convert to electric melting in order to comply with the air pollution policy. This investigation was deemed difficult as the company had not install new machines thus no progress was made. On a much more successful investigation, Evan's Cardboard Plant in Phillips, Wisconsin, had complaints about fiber emissions that blew fiber particles with the wind which settled on the surfaces of lawns and Lake Duroy. The solution to this was to install new equipment which helped alleviate the air emission problems. The plant complied and pollution investigator Walter Neibauer stayed in contact with the owner to evaluate the effectiveness of the new equipment.[8]

The main sources of water pollution in Wisconsin were identified as pulp and paper mills, sewage treatment plants, food processing plants, cranberry marshes, dairy and cheese plants, and agricultural & urban runoff. In Albion, Wisconsin there were complaints against Mr. Johnson's property about disorderly collection of trash, cars, and water equipment. During inspection it revealed that there were trash and scrap metal across the property. The property owners were ordered to get a salvage yard license. They were also required to comply with Section 151.09 which dealt with implementation and enforcement procedures for cropland performances standards.[9]

During S.T.O.P.'s investigations it was discovered that cranberry marshes were one of the main polluters of Wisconsin's waters.[10] The main complaint of these marshes was that owners were using lakes and creeks to drain marshes which pulled pesticides and other chemicals into Wisconsin's lakes. A challenge to these investigations was cranberry marsh owners stating they did not need a proper permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources claiming it's the cranberry culture in Wisconsin. Investigations to marshes found much decline in plant and wildlife population in polluted lakes. It was recorded by a biologist in Hayward, Wisconsin that there was a 100% wild rice kill off in 1964 as a result of cranberry marshes as well as no natural muskellunge egg hatch in the lakes even though there is still a spawn.

Notable Cases

S.T.O.P. utilized environmental law and Wisconsin state statutes to help stop pollution in Wisconsin. In some cases, the Attorney General filed suit when orders were not complied by the perpetrators.

W. Roy Kopp vs. William Zawstowski

This was a suit by a group of individuals opposing William Zawstowski's right as a cranberry marsh owner to divert water from Lake Sissabagama. During their investigation, S.T.O.P concluded cranberry marshes were polluting the state's waters. The rights of cranberry marsh owners were formed in 1867 with little regards to water pollution. The laws were considered outdated and should be redrafted in order to protect Wisconsin lakes and bring the issue of pollution to the legislatures. The main argument became whether an owner of cranberry marshes could divert water from lakes under cranberry laws. The Attorney General stated owners may not divert water from lakes without a permit. It was discovered only one or maybe a few more had proper permits as many believe it was in their right in the cranberry culture to divert waters without a permit.

Town of Holland Sanitary District #1

In 1965, the Town of Holland and the White Clover Dairy Company Inc., constructed a municipal sewage treatment plant. The dairy company contributed to more than 95% of the plant's flow with the remainder being domestic sewage. The plant's waste was being discharged to a drainage ditch which flows into Plum Creek. Upon investigation, the creek appeared dead with the water covered in a dark green-black scum which ran a mile downstream. Residents near the creek complained about a nauseous odor and a decrease in property value. On May 14, 1968, the Department of Natural Resources issued an order against the district to improve the treatment facility or reduce the industrial loading. The district had until May 5, 1970 to comply to the order. By July 16, 1970 the district had not complied with the order and no other steps were taken by the Department of Natural Resource to enforce the order.

On August 27, 1970, the Attorney General's office filed suit against the Town of Holland Sanitary District. The actions taken were the results of the district not meeting any orders issued by the Department of Natural Resources. The investigation had enough probable cause to believe the dairy plant, the Town of Holland and the district created a public nuisance with the plant's discharge into Plum Creek.[11]

Legacy

The program received positive response from citizens with many people saying they were tired of pollution and happy something was being done about it.[12] Various of groups widely supported the program. One group being the Mendota-Monona Lake Property Owners Association, Limited, which was devoted to the improvement of lakes in Wisconsin.[13]

The S.T.O.P. program trail blazed another program in autumn[14], with ten of the original 23 students returning as a part-time basis. The following autumn the students continued working on pollution complaints left over from the summer as well as work on cases already filed by the Attorney General.

References

  1. "The Modern Environmental Movement". Wisconsin Historical Society. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp-048/?action=more_essay
  2. "The History of Earth Day". Earth Day Network. https://www.earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day/
  3. "Warren, Robert Willis". Federal Judicial Center. https://www.fjc.gov/node/1389401
  4. "The Specter of Environmentalism": Wilderness, Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right," Journal of American History, accessed April 2017. https://doi.org/10.2307/27694734
  5. S.T.O.P Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 6. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  6. History of S.T.O.P, Box 1, Folder 1. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  7. Newspaper Clippings, Box 1, Folder 7. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  8. Box 10, Folder 2. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  9. Box 5, Folder 18. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  10. Cranberry Marshes, Box 9, Folder 15. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  11. Intro to S.T.O.P, Box 2, Folder 1. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. 1969-1972.
  12. Raymer, Steve. "Students Task Force in Pollution Battle." Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter (Madison, WI), July 8, 1970.
  13. Weinstein, Laurence A. Letter to S.T.O.P., July 21, 1970. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution. Wisconsin. Department of Justice.
  14. S.T.O.P Correspondence, Box 1, Folder 6. Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution.1969-1972.

Archival Resources for Further Research

Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services. Register of the Wisconsin. Department of Justice. Division of Legal Services: Records and Related Material of Students to Oppose Pollution, 1969-1972, 1969.

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