Hull Well Water Investigation Still Underway
Left, residents packed into the Town of Hull Municipal Building during an Oct. 5 meeting focusing on well water issues. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Leaders from the Town of Hull say they’re still mapping out exactly which area of the town is being most affected by a recent drop in the water levels in private wells.
Town Chairman John Holdridge said homeowners began complaining about wells drying up this spring, with many blaming the new high- capacity well #11 put in near the town by the City of Stevens Point.
But city officials say the well isn’t at fault and water levels were measured several times before and after the well went online. Stevens Point Public Utilities Director Joel Lemke says monitoring wells surrounding well 11 indicate the ground water level had decreased “by maybe one foot” over the past year.
Well 11 can pump 5 million gallons a day but currently only operates at about 1/3 its capacity, he said, and is located on a buried bedrock channel just west of the Little Plover River.
“We can’t attribute this just to the well,” Lemke said. “We have seasonal groundwater fluctuations that can vary some of this,” he said, adding a natural depression, called the “cone of depression” would appear around any well, but the further a residence is from the city’s well, the less of a depression would occur, eventually returning to a somewhat normal depth to ground water level.
Lemke added if the city was found to be at fault, Stevens Point would be “bound by law to fix it”.
Still, several Hull residents came forward during a recent town meeting to say they’ve spend $6,000 or more having new wells drilled on their properties- most within the past six months.
Holdridge said the town has contacted at least five local well drilling companies to determine exactly how many new wells have been put in over the past several months.
“We’ve also sent out some 300 questionnaires to one area of town that seems to be most affected by the water shortage,” Holdridge said.
According to Hull Secretary Barb Brilowski, 107 of the 353 surveys- which include questions about dates and depths of wells- sent to residents had been returned Wednesday.
Holdridge said the town has received documentation from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the city’s well and water reports on the surrounding area, but are looking for an independent hydrologist to translate the information. He said the town has narrowed down its search to only a few specialists who “aren’t beholden to the city, the DNR or anyone else”.
Portage County Executive Patty Dreier said she’s only now heard from people on the matter during her listening session at the town’s municipal building on Tuesday. She said no one from Hull has contacted her outside that meeting, and to her knowledge no one contacted the county’s planning and zoning committee to file a complaint, either.
“I know they’re in the gathering mode in Hull, putting together information on a map and mapping all they learn from the citizens. As soon as that information is gathered I look forward to seeing it,” Dreier said. “I understand it’s been happening just over the last six months, and that’s the first I had heard of a timeframe.”
Dreier admitted she hasn’t had a chance to regularly attend Town of Hull meetings but will try to be at the next meeting on October 21.
During the Tuesday listening session, Dreier said at least one individual came forward to talk about the high number of drilling company trucks he’d seen in some parts of the town.
“One gentleman said he biked and walked around a lot and he saw equipment everywhere,” Dreier said. “He’d look in one direction, there were the trucks, in another direction, and there were the trucks. It was interesting to have that perception come forward.”
Holdridge said the town was far from having a complete picture, saying, “This won’t be a sprint; this will be a marathon”, and expects any hydrologist the town hires to be in it for the long haul. The next town meeting would be held at SPASH on Oct. 21 at 6 PM, to update residents on the town’s progress.
“We need to keep the citizens informed,” he said. “We’re pretty consistent with the way the Town of Hull is run; we like to keep people informed.”