Study results released on Kewaunee County water contamination

Published: Jun. 7, 2017 at 8:41 PM CDT
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For years we've reported the stories about brown water in Kewaunee County. Action 2 News brought you one family's story last year when it became clear they had feces in their water.

But where did it come from?

A study conducted by three different agencies to sought to determine that, and at a public meeting in Luxemburg Wednesday night a big crowd gathered to find out what's causing it.

Mark Borchardt of the USDA Agriculture Research Service said, "Of the wells we sampled, we did 131, and we had 40 wells with evidence of bovine manure, microbiological evidence of bovine manure, and we had 29 wells with evidence of human wastewater contamination."

That contamination level is much higher than in other counties within the state.

Some of it stems from shallow soils used for farming and bedrock beneath that.

Lee Luft, chairman of the Kewaunee Co. Groundwater Task Force, said, "There's not enough soil to filtrate all of the viruses and contaminants. It hits the cracked bedrock and then it does wind up in our water table, which is the cause of some of our well contamination. We also have some likely contamination coming from septic systems."

The county hopes to use these study results as a way to promote changes both at the local level and with state legislators.

Right now manure is only spread in the spring and fall, which is a process likely to change.

Davina Bonness of the Kewaunee Co. Land & Water Conservation Department said, "So what we're doing in the county is, we've dropped a couple of ordinances trying to get some low pressure drip irrigation systems, trying to spread that window of manure irrigation over the entire growing season, and hopefully that will help with some of the manure contaminants."

Also, inspections of septic systems are now a bigger priority.