Friday, August 30, 2013
8-31-13 water quality problems-towns of osceola and mitchell
Forty-one households participated in the Towns of Osceola and Mitchell voluntary well water testing program with UW-Extension in July. At the results presentation Thursday night, residents learned that the percent of wells detecting arsenic was slightly greater than the state average. While a few wells found nitrate at levels that are of concern to health, overall nitrate levels were low when compared to areas with similar land-use. Also encouraging was that the number of wells found to be positive for coliform bacteria was typical of most other Wisconsin communities. A small number of wells found low levels of the pesticide ingredient atrazine, common in corn-growing areas, however none were found above recommended drinking water standards. Kevin Masarik, Groundwater Specialist with UW-Extension, informed well owners that water quality depends on soil type and well construction as well as local land use. “Testing water annually for bacteria and nitrates, and making sure your well cap is tight, are a few easy things home owners can do to protect the quality of their drinking water,” stated Masarik. Arsenic is a naturally-occurring mineral found in bedrock layers. Eighteen out of the 27 wells in these townships sampled for arsenic detected it at low levels, and four wells found it at levels over the drinking water standard of .01 mg/L (10 ppb). Drinking water with high levels of arsenic is thought to increase the risk of skin cancers as well as lung, liver, bladder, kidney, and colon cancers, circulatory disorders, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and unusual skin pigmentation, which is why long-term consumption of water over the standard should be avoided. As a result of what was learned through the testing program, it is recommended that all households sample well water for arsenic at least once. Recent testing has also found a higher incidence of arsenic in wells in the Town of Lamartine. If arsenic is present at any level, it is recommended that the well be sampled routinely because there are concerns that levels may rise over time. More information on labs that analyze arsenic in well water can be found at http://fonddulac.uwex.edu/arsenic. Residents can sample for bacteria ($19) and nitrates ($16) through the Fond du Lac County Health Department, 160 S. Macy St., Fond du Lac. Bottles can be picked up from 8am – 4pm, Monday – Friday. More information about this water sampling program is available from UW-Extension (920) 929-3173 (711 for hearing-impaired relay).