What is CWAC?

Clean Water Action Council is an environmental advocacy group that has fought for environmental protection in northeast Wisconsin since 1985. Our organization is led by a board of directors and composed of hundreds of eco-minded members.

After many years of CWAC's efforts, including participating in several lawsuits and providing testimony at many public hearings, the Fox River PCB cleanup is now underway from Neenah/Menasha to the city of Green Bay. CWAC is currently involved in numerous lawsuits and actions to protect human health and the environment. Our previous efforts cover all areas of northeast Wisconsin. In Oshkosh we ended 2,390 days of wastewater discharge permit violations in a case against Utica Energy with a settlement in 2010. In 2011, our attorneys helped improve air quality in Appleton by reaching a settlement with a paper mill to end the use of a coal fired boiler. In 2012 we came to the aid of Brown County residents and helped overturn a permit that would have allowed a gasification incineration plant to be built after the developers provide false information to the City of Green Bay. We are a leader in taking action on behalf of our members and the public.

Fox River

Clean Water Action Council is funded by membership dues and donations. Members receive the quarterly newsletter that educates members about current issues and provides information on actions the organization is taking and how members and the public can become involved. Members are also offered a weekly update via e-mail and through Facebook postings..

Please consider becoming a member or simply donating to help us take action to protect human health and the environment in northeast Wisconsin!

Historical Background of CWAC

We were founded in August, 1985, as a result of a week-long Greenpeace publicity campaign in Green Bay, which was part of their "Waters for Life" tour around the Great Lakes. Greenpeace brought in several activists and a toxicologist, as well as a 100-year-old wooden Tall Ship with multiple sails. It was a dramatic week full of publicity about our local toxic pollution problems. At the conclusion of the week, Greenpeace held a public meeting at the Neville Public Museum, where roughly 200 people showed up with only one day's notice. At that meeting it was decided that we needed to form our own local group to follow-up on the serious toxic pollution issues highlighted that week.

Our first local group meeting was held at the Best Western Hotel in downtown Green Bay, attended by about 35 people. We resolved to form the "Stop Toxics Organizing Project" (or STOP) and created a Board of Directors. We began organizing public events and sending newsletters a short time later. A member of this Board, attorney Peter McKeever, did the legal paperwork to incorporate us and apply for non-profit educational status, which took about a year. After 2 years, we decided to change the name to Clean Water Action Council of NE Wisconsin, Inc. to give our group a more positive label.

Some Key Issues Worked On During Our First 25 Years

Toxic Pollution

Our founding issue was the clean-up of toxic chemicals affecting the Fox River and Green Bay. The work has taken many forms:

a. Pushing for contaminated sediment clean-up in the river and bay.

b. Stopping the tripling expansion of Kidney Island (Renard Isle) - (Successful lawsuit).

c. Pushing for proper capping and sealing of the Island and other sludge disposal sites.

d. Fighting the drying and landscaping of contaminated paper mill sludge - Grantek, etc. (Partly successful lawsuit - reduced quantity to be dried per year).

e. Fighting statewide against the direct land spreading of contaminated sediments, industrial sludge and sewage sludge.

f. Fighting the construction and air pollution permit for a paper mill sludge dryer on a toxic

g. Riverfront waste site (and public trust land) in Neenah-- the Minergy case and

h. Promoting clean-up and fighting expansion of the Fort Howard Sludge Lagoons.

i. Building awareness of the link between pollution and public health problems.

j. Publicizing the risks of eating contained fish and pushing agencies to better publicize fish advisories.

k. Questioning the long-term viability of the shipping harbor in Green Bay, and promoting better alternative bulk transport options.

l. Promoting industrial process changes to reduce toxic pollution, and/or reduce energy and water consumption.

m. Fighting against the "Jobs Creation Act I and II" which greatly reduced DNR regulation of air pollution in Wisconsin.

n. Publicizing local information generated by the federal Toxic Release Inventory and linking it to public health concerns.

o. Organizing public "Toxic Tours" on buses around the Green Bay area, with printed maps and detailed description of several contaminated sites.

p. Challenged the legality of a conditional use permit for a gasification incinerator in Green Bay. The City Council revoked the permit and a circuit court judge upheld the City’s finding, citing same issues we brought forth.

Wildlife Habitat

a. Pushing for $333 million in compensation money from the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment due to PCB contamination of the river and bay. The bulk of this money would be used for acquiring, protecting and restoring wildlife habitat in the system.

b. Promoting improved local, state, and federal wetland protection regulations.

c. Fighting against the "Jobs Creation Act I and II" which greatly reduced DNR regulation of destructive shoreline development in Wisconsin.

d. Promoting the federal USDA Conservation Reserve program for keeping excess cropland out of production, which benefit prairie wildlife.

e. Promoting conservation and wilderness protection efforts in Wisconsin forests.

f. Promoting native landscaping groups like the Wild Ones.

Solid Waste

a. Promoting Effective recycling programs locally and statewide.

b. Promoting regulation of products to increase their recycling potential.

c. Promoting government and personal purchases of goods made from recycled material.

d. Protesting artificially low landfill tipping fees in Brown County.

e. Stopping the proposed solid waste incinerator in Brown County and getting a permit revocation for construction of the Oneida Seven Generations gasification incinerator in Green Bay.

f. Fighting all forms of contaminated waste incineration.

g. Promoting zero waste concepts including ending all organics placed in landfills and supporting the formation of the N.E.W. Zero Waste Task Force.

Water Pollution

a. Challenging many proposed DNR permits for new, increased or continuing wastewater discharges.

b. Protesting many ineffective or backwards state and federal proposals for pollution discharge controls.

c. Fighting for enhanced rules protecting "Exceptional and Outstanding Resource Waters" like the Wolf River.

d. Promoting greatly increased regulation of manure spreading and other non-point rural land run-off pollution.

e. Challenging inadequate statewide DNR rules regulating urban storm water run-off. (Lawsuit blocked).

f. Promoting the Priority Watershed clean-up of the East River - through our Pedal, Paddle, Plod Triathlons.

g. Providing non-profit fiscal sponsorship for Centerville CARES and Kewaunee CARES, local citizen groups in Manitowoc and Kewaunee Counties working intensively on agricultural surface run-off and groundwater contamination problems in their areas and statewide.

h. We won a settlement with Utica Energy in Oshkosh for more than 2,390 days of violating their wastewater discharge permit during a six month period.


a. Fighting alongside a large coalition of groups against the Crandon Mine, Flambeau Mine, Gogebic Taconite’s mining bill, and other toxic and destructive mine proposals in Wisconsin.

b. Pushing for a moratorium on sulfide ore mining in Wisconsin.


a. Promoting energy efficiency and conservation initiatives.

b. Promoting alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and some biomass use.

c. Pushing for public awareness of climate change causes and risks.

d. Fighting against unnecessary power plants (Successful in Little Suamico against WEPCO.)

e. Fighting against a national low-level and high-level radioactive waste disposal site in the northern bedrock of Wisconsin's north woods.

f. Fighting for a moratorium on construction of new nuclear power plants in Wisconsin.

g. Protesting the long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel rods on site at Wisconsin nuclear power plants.

Public Process Rights and Good Government

a. Fighting against corruption of government.

b. Fighting for the public process rights – to ensure meaningful public involvement in government decision-making.

c. Promoting campaign finance reform – to remove the influence of private money over our elected officials.

d. Promoting the restoration of the Wisconsin Public Interveners’ Office for protecting public rights in the natural resources of Wisconsin.

e. Promoting the restoration of the DNR secretary to control by the independent Natural Resources Board, to de- politicize the DNR.

f. Promoting wise management and adequate budgets at key government agencies.

g. Membership support for the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the statewide leader in campaign finance reform.


a. Organizing many workshops, programs, seminars, and presentations on our issues.

b. Distributing tens of thousands of newsletters.

c. Distributing tens of thousands of factsheets and action alert postcards.

d. Organizing a full-time door-to-door canvass which covered all of Northeast Wisconsin 3 times over 3 years.

e. Testifying at hundreds of local, DNR, EPA, legislative and other hearings.

f. Holding hundreds of news conferences and media interviews to build public awareness of issues.

g. Organizing many phone campaigns to build attendance at key public hearings.

h. Organizing dozens of public protests and marches on key issues.

i. Creating two websites to build public awareness through the internet.

j. Circulating dozens of petitions.

k. Creating displays to present at public information fairs.

l. Giving presentations at schools and nature centers.

m. Distributing posters to publicize events and issues.

Coalition Building

a. Inviting co-sponsorships of our events and supporting other groups at their events.

b. Recruiting other groups to send representatives to participate in key public hearings.

c. Sending hundreds of free newsletters to other groups statewide, to build awareness of our issues and connections between our groups and creating the Wisconsin Stewardship Network (from1995-2005) to do the same statewide.

d. Participating as a regular member of the Brown County Conservation Alliance.

e. Establishing partnerships and providing financial support to various start-up groups including Centerville CARES, Incinerator Free Brown County, Kewaunee CARES, and the N.E.W. Zero Waste Coalition.

© Clean Water Action Council

P.O. Box 9144

Green Bay, WI 54308

(920) 421-8885

Office location:
A307 MAC Hall, UW-Green Bay
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311