Well shut down since August sees increased nitrate contamination
By Brandi Makuski
Officials from the city’s water department say a municipal well has been taken offline due to high nitrates.
The city has been aware of rising nitrates in Well #5- the only city well east of the Plover River- for several years, according to Joel Lemke, director of the water department, who said the well has been shut down since August.
“It’s been approaching that high level of nitrates for many years,” Lemke said on Thursday. “As it got closer [to unsafe levels] we ran it less and less, and the last samples we took, we only ran it in order to sample it.”
Lemke said routine testing of the well last month showed nitrate levels above 10 milligrams per liter, which exceeds state and federal safe drinking water standards. The DNR has “very black or white verbiage”, he said, about notifying the public of high nitrate levels, so the water department sent each city water customer a postcard. A letter is also available on the city’s website explaining the situation.
Monthly testing is required of all wells, but Lemke said the water run from the offline well for testing was “insignificant” and never reached a customer.
He also called the mail notification a “really, really cautious” move, adding if it were up to him, he would not have chosen to alert residents because no city water customers were affected.
“I didn’t want there to be the public concern related with a very aggressive notice like that, because it wasn’t justified,” he added.
Nitrates accumulate in ground water due to agricultural activity and some development. Lemke added some residents with private wells even have a high nitrate count, in part because “nitrates leach in from their own septic system,” he said.
The well will remain unused until a suitable method of treatment is approved by the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, Lemke said.
The full letter explaining the well closure and effects of nitrate can be seen here.