More water tests show contaminates rising in Central Wisconsin
By Gene Kemmeter
Last year Portage County collaborated with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) Center for Watershed Science and Education in 2017 to sample private wells throughout the county for nitrate-nitrogen, chloride, pH, alkalinity, total hardness and conductivity.
To ensure testing was representative, the county was divided into two-mile-square grid cells, and one well was randomly selected from each cell for sampling. A total of 214 samples were analyzed at the state-certified Water and Environmental Analysis Lab from 202 of the grid’s 229 total cells.
Nitrate was the most common health-related contaminant found in the county’s groundwater, and nearly 24 percent of the wells tested had greater than 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L), the maximum drinking water standard. That is nearly 2.5 times the statewide average. Water with nitrate concentrations greater than 10 mg/L is a health concern and should not be used by infants and women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant to prevent potential health effects.
Nearly 52 percent of the wells tested measured greater than 2 mg/L, evidence that land-use activities are affecting water quality. Many of the wells with high nitrate concentrations are located in areas of agriculture, particularly potato and corn crops that have higher rates of nitrogen application. Nitrate concentrations tended to be lower on landscapes that maintained forest cover on more than 50 percent of the forestland.
Earlier this month, Juneau and Wood counties announced the findings of well testing conducted in collaboration with UWSP. The test involved 104 randomly selected wells in the towns of Armenia and Port Edwards, where 42 percent of them have high levels of nitrates and nitrogen exceeding the 10 mg/L. level. Those tests impact the homeowners because banks won’t issue mortgages to potential buyers if the waters is unfit to drink.
The findings add greater disappointment and resentment toward the agricultural community, who have long claimed to be the stewards of the land and promised to moderate the application of chemicals to reduce their presence in water.
There’s a history to those promises, especially in Portage County. Testing in the 1970s led the government to ban the use of the pesticide aldicarb in Wisconsin after studies in Portage County showed it failed to dissolve in groundwater. The village of Whiting had to shut down its well because of high nitrates. Plover has to mix water from its wells because of high nitrates in some wells. Stevens Point has closed wells because of high nitrates.
The value of irrigation has been known since 3000 B.C., but development of machinery in the 1970s spurred more widespread use, usually with large-scale farming by corporations rather than family farms. That produced less connection to the soil and more emphasis on the financial aspects.
Water continues to be one of the most precious resources in the world. Polluting it with chemicals will reduce its value and future use. Efforts need to be taken to stop the spread of nitrates and other chemicals in the water supply. We shouldn’t be tainting this valued commodity for future generations.
Yet republicans in this state could give a crap. A pass was given to foxxconnjob to pollute all they want. In wood cty they are about to allow high flow wells for the meat farm that wysocki wants to build. Where is Gov Walker in all this? Oh yeah, that’s right, too busy spouting off about all the great things foxxconnjob will bring us putting our children on the lease to pay for it for the next 25 yrs. If you care about the environment, your kids future, YOUR DRINKING WATER, for gods sake stop voting these republican morons into office! If not your kids and their kids will pay the price!