Nitrate Test Results Highlight Groundwater Issues

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, US Water News, Water Contamination, Water Education
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A participant in one of the county’s groundwater listening sessions adds an idea to the pool collected Wednesday regarding what is going well with water in the county. (Photo credit: SARI LESK/STEVENS POINT JOURNAL MEDIA)

Article courtesy of Sari Lesk | October 22, 2014 | Stevens Point Journal Media | Shared as educational material

Nearly 70 percent of groundwater samples tested during a groundwater listening session Wednesday night showed unsafe levels of nitrates.

Nineteen samples were tested at the listening session, which was held at the Plover Town Hall, and 13 of those water samples contained nitrate levels that are considered unsafe for consumption. One sample tested Wednesday contained more than 31 milligrams of nitrates per liter; 10 milligrams per liter or fewer is considered safe.

The results of the free sampling highlight one of the reasons many Portage County residents and leaders have started a conversation on the issue. About 40 people attended the fourth of 10 listening sessions scheduled by County Executive Patty Dreier; the sessions will continue until early February.

Those who attended the session identified a lack of awareness regarding problems with water and a habit of overuse as some of the problems with water the county faces.

When Dreier asked participants what they thought was going well with water in the county, attendees listed readily available water testing, improved water quality in some areas and the economic value of the agriculture industry in central Wisconsin.

But conflicting practices and regulations among municipalities in the county, contamination of the water from various sources and a need for more planning to protect the resource pose a variety of problems, they said.

Dreier surveyed the group for ideas on how to guide groundwater in the future, which led to suggestions ranging from legislation to local actions such as education and municipal ordinances.

Dreier said she sees the value in talking about the issue on a broader scale, such as statewide, but still sees importance in also taking action at the local level.

“If you start where you are, you can’t be any worse off than if you didn’t start,” she said.

Dreier scheduled the tour of listening sessions after focusing her 2014 State of the County address on the state of groundwater in Portage County. She asked that residents not pit various water users against each other, but rather work together to be good stewards of the shared resource.

Sari Lesk can be reached at 715-345-2257. Follow her on Twitter as @Sari_Lesk.

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