Left, dozens of Hull residents gathered Monday night to learn why their wells might be drying up. (City-Times photo)
By Brandi Makuski
Leaders from the Town of Hull say they’re looking for a hydrologist to determine whether a Stevens Point well is at fault for town residents losing well water.
Hull Chairman John Holdridge said he’s heard from dozens of residents over the past few months complaining of private wells drying up. Many claim a new high capacity well for the City of Stevens Point is lowering the water table, taking water from their own residential wells.
“We’re still gathering facts and information, but we need to hire someone, a hydrologist, to look into this,” Holdridge said. He added he would contact officials from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to ask for referrals.
The Town of Hull Monday night held a public meeting Monday to hear from residents in an effort to determine how wide- spread the any problem might be. Several residents at that meeting claim to have spent at least $6,000 for a newly- drilled well within the past few months.
But leaders from the City of Stevens Point deny the town’s claims, saying well #11- which is located near the boundaries of Hull- was thoroughly tested before it went online in spring of 2012 and it showed no significant effect on the aquifer.
“The likelihood of a significant (aquifer) draw down is extremely low,” said Mayor Andrew Halverson. “We’ve been looking at our monitoring wells, which are only a few hundred feet away, and we’re only seeing a fluctuation of about a foot at our current (usage) rate.”
According to the Stevens Point Water Department, the well has been running at 2300-2500 gallons per minute, which is about third of its actual capacity.
“I understand why there’s a knee jerk reaction from folks that are near the well saying, ‘well, that absolutely must be the cause for my problem’,” Halverson said. “But in essence, if you look at the very ages of the wells we’re talking about- and they’re very shallow anyway- you’re going to have natural issues that produce the need to replace wells. Well 11 simply isn’t the culprit.”
One popular drilling company backs up the city’s claims, saying it’s common for several wells in a given area to need replacing at the same time.
David Haupt, of Haupt Well & Pump Company in Auburndale, said his company has been called up to drill several new wells for Town of Hull residents over the past few months. Many of the wells his company has seen, he said, are past their prime.
“I don’t think the city has a lot to do with it,” Haupt said on Wednesday. “I looked through some old well records for them (Hull) and a lot of those wells were drilled in the 90’s. The water levels today aren’t much different so this should be an open and shut case.”
Haupt said he remembers a similar incident in the Wisconsin Rapids area.
“It goes in cycles like that sometimes,” he said. “There were a bunch of wells in Wisconsin Rapids that we needed to replace within the same year or so.”
Haupt said residents should be sending abandonment reports to the DNR when their well goes out of commission to help the state can keep track of the local water table. He added he didn’t know if Hull residents were sending those reports.
“When those old wells plug with mineral encrustations- iron and lime, manganese, whatever- that reduces the hole into the well and it plugs up the screen. When that’s plugged the water can’t enter the well like it did when it was new, so you either clean it or drill a new one,” he said.
Well #11 has been in the works for over a decade, Halverson said, following a stern warning from the DNR that the city didn’t have a backup water source in the event other large wells became unusable. Well #4 is susceptible to an increase in bacteria during the spring runoff each year, and well #5 is at risk for increased nitrates from fertilizer used by neighboring farms. Should either or both wells be shut down over these issues, Halverson said the city could have trouble providing water service and fire protection.
But according to Halverson and Public Works Director Joel Lemke, the city has proof well #11, which has the capacity to serve 2 1/2 times the current population of Stevens Point, isn’t affecting the private wells on nearby properties.
“We ran that well for 3 straight days for the purposes of testing prior to it began running,” Halverson said. “The amount of production that is capable out of this aquifer is nothing short of amazing, and to have less than one foot of a drawdown at a quarter mile away is amazing.”
Both Halverson and Haupt said it’s critical the public fully educate themselves before jumping to any conclusions.
“Quite frankly, some of those wells where installed by do- it- yourselfers and they weren’t deep enough,” Haupt said, adding he hasn’t been happy with recent media reports about the problems with wells in Hull, calling one TV news report “a biased skit” and advised people to not judge the issue without having all the facts.
“Those monitoring wells are put in place to determine how much influence that well has on the area water level, and facts don’t lie,” Haput said. “If the water level didn’t go down, it’s that simple. I don’t want to alienate anybody, but facts are facts.”