Public gets first look at Kewaunee Co. contaminated groundwater study findings

A sign marking the Kewaunee County line is seen, Sept. 7, 2016. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

A two-year study examining the contaminated groundwater in Kewaunee County is now complete.

Those heading up the study presented their findings to the public in a presentation at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds, 625 Third St., Luxemburg, Wednesday evening.

A couple hundred residents gathered in the Expo Building on the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds to discover the extent of their groundwater contamination. The findings based on a two-year scientific study involving the USDA, U.S. Geological Survey and UW-Oshkosh.

“Kewaunee County is 60 percent,” said Mark Borchardt, USDA micro-biologist of the county’s contamination rate. “So it's on the high end.”

When asked if that was alarming for residents, Borchardt responded saying, “It's a high contamination rate.”

That's based on one sample of 131 wells in the county. Borchardt predicts with additional testing the contamination rate would be much higher.

“If these wells were sampled more than once these would creep up to 90 percent,” said Borchardt.

As FOX 11 Investigates first reported last month, the study found cow manure and human waste contributing to the problem.

“There's been a lot of blame it's all on the farmers or its leaking septic systems but now we have results it's from both we can take information and start addressing the problem,” said Davine Bonness, Kewaunee County Conservationist.

Groundwater scientist Maureen Muldoon told residents the timing of the contamination occurs depending on rising and falling groundwater levels, in addition to the shallow depth of the soil.

“During some of these recharge events with that first push of water into the aquifer where exactly do the pathogens start coming through and how quickly is the chemistry changing,” explained Maureen Muldoon, UW-Oshkosh geology professor.

The findings also show elevated levels of cryptosporidium and rotavirus A in the contaminated samples, both a concern for public health.

“Really, without clean water we have no life and that's a big problem,” said Kewaunee County resident Keith Bancroft.

With all the testing complete the next step is a three-month statistical analysis of the data. The hope from residents is changes will be made based on the scientific evidence to minimize the contamination moving forward.

Last month FOX11 Investigates took you inside the USDA lab in Marshfield where well-water samples were being tested.

The findings from this study is expected to help conservationists, the DNR, even legislators to come up with policies to prevent the groundwater contamination in the future.

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