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Expert: Testing finds many water wells in Juneau Co. unsafe for drinking

NECEDAH (WAOW) – Testing of  more than 100 water wells in a rural area of Juneau County found 42 percent of them had high levels of nitrates and nitrogen, making the water unsafe to drink, a groundwater specialist said Tuesday.

"This is not ordinary. It it not normal to see that percentage of wells exceeding the standard," said Kevin Masarik of the University of Wisconsin Extension in Stevens Point. "It is one of the higher percentages we have seen."

A meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Necedah Town Hall will explain the findings and answer questions about how to improve water quality, he said. The water sample was arranged by the Juneau County Land and Water Resources Department and the Juneau County Health Department.

In June, 104 wells were sampled in the towns of Armenia and Port Edwards, with results ranging from hardly any levels of nitrates to 50 milligrams per liter, Masarik said. 

The drinking water standard is 10 milligrams per liter.

"Anything above 10 we would not want to be used by infants less than six months of age or women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant," the water expert said. Others would be advised to "avoid long-term consumption."

Masarik said if 1 million private wells in Wisconsin were tested, experts would expect about 10 percent would exceed the safe-drinking standard.

The Juneau County sample testing was large enough that 42 percent was a good estimate for all wells in those rural areas, he said.

Agriculture activity, the use of nitrogen fertilizers and the sandy and gravel soils contribute to groundwater contamination in the area, he said.

Masarik said he was unsure how many people would attend Tuesday’s meeting but "some will find out that their water is quite good."

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