By Brandi Makuski
Some Town of Hull residents say the newest Stevens Point well is forcing them re-drill new, deeper wells on their property.
At least one resident says she’s been without water for nearly a week because her well has dried up- something she blames on well #11, a high- capacity well the City of Stevens Point completed near the Town of Hull in 2012.
“I lost my water five days ago,” said Hull resident Kelly Jones. “So I started talking to my neighbors. I found one after another, people losing their wells and having to put new wells in.”
Jones said she’s talked to at least half a dozen residents in her Skyline Drive neighborhood who’ve needed new wells drilled in the past few months, but many aren’t willing to file a complaint with the City of Stevens Point.
“I’ve talked with the city and I’ve talked with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources); they aren’t admitting or denying the well is the cause at this point, and most of my neighbors were completely unaware of this well that was put in. They just put in their new well and didn’t say anything.”
“The bottom line is, we believe this high capacity well the City of Stevens Point put in is killing everybody’s well.”
Joel Lemke, Stevens Point Director of Public Works, said it’s unlikely residents didn’t know about the new well because public meetings were held in the Town of Hull before well construction even began.
“We gave everyone the opportunity to get their wells tested and sampled before that well started pumping,” Lemke said. “We tested for all sorts of parameters- depth to ground water, specific capacity of the well, gallons per minute, etc.”
The data was necessary, Lemke said, so the city could have baseline information on private wells before well #11 began pumping and potentially affecting private water supplies. The city has retested 3 wells at the city’s expense, with one homeowner’s results showing a decrease of .3 gallons per minute, but the city’s monitoring wells showed no change in the ground water level to earlier tests.
Lemke said that decrease could be caused by any number of circumstances, including a plugged screen or an inefficient pump.
The high- capacity well, which can pump 5 million gallons a day, is located on a buried bedrock channel just west of the Little Plover River and has several monitoring wells near the Stevens Point Airport.
While more information needs to be gathered by his department, Lemke said monitoring wells indicate over the past year the ground water level immediately surrounding well #11 has decreased by “maybe one foot”.
“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.
“If you have nonporous soils you’d be getting a really exaggerated one of depression, but that’s not what’s happening here,” Lemke said. “It just doesn’t make sense that neighbors are being affected.”
Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge said he’s heard from several Hull residents with similar complaints. He said his staff hasn’t determined whether the city’s new well is a factor, but admits it “could be”, saying his office has received several phone calls from residents near the well.
“We still need to investigate. One of the things we need to do is get a hydrologist who knows about water flow and so forth. We don’t have any expertise on our staff,” he said.
Holdridge said some of the wells may have been replaced simply because of their age, with some being as much as 40 years old. But he did admit the new wells were being drilled much deeper, from 30-35 to 40-45 feet.
“A number of people have put in new drilled wells, and now they’re getting water,” he added, though he said he was unaware of any Hull resident who was currently without water besides Jones.
Jones said she’s spearheading a movement to rally Hull residents who think they’ve been adversely affected by the Stevens Point well, and says she’ll “raise all holy hell” to get down to the bottom of the situation. A town meeting has been organized for Monday night with Town of Hull officials so residents can voice their concerns. It was unknown Friday night whether leaders from the City of Stevens Point would be in attendance.
Jones said she’s been quoted a cost of $6k-$10k for her new well, of which drilling began Friday. She said she doesn’t think it’s fair Hull residents should pay the cost of a problem she says is being caused by the City of Stevens Point.
Lemke said he and his department are still investigating the claims from Hull residents, but if they city’s well is the cause, it will pay to correct any problems.
“We’re not only willing to fix the problem, we’re obligated by law,” he said.