Private wells in rural SW Wisconsin are 91% polluted

MILWAUKEE (AP) – A new study shows the majority of private wells in southwestern Wisconsin are substantially polluted with fecal matter as concerns intensify over pollution of rural drinking water.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that results from the independent study released Aug. 1 indicated that 32 of 35 wells – or 91% – contained fecal matter from humans or livestock.

The work was led by U.S. Agricultural Research Service research microbiologist Mark Borchardt, others in his agency and the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.

Monetary backing came from the counties, the agencies and local groups. Additional testing in the counties is likely, with the next round set for early August.

It was discovered during testing in April that some of the wells contained illness-causing pathogens such as salmonella, rotavirus and cryptosporidium.

The results from Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties are the latest in a series of tests showing an array of problems with well water in the three counties.

These findings, and test results elsewhere, highlight the potential vulnerability of Wisconsin groundwater from agricultural practices and defective septic systems.

About one-quarter of the state’s residents get their water from more than 800,000 private wells, according to state figures.

“As a researcher of groundwater for 25 years now, I continue to be amazed by the level of fecal contamination in Wisconsin groundwater,” said Mark Borchardt, a research microbiologist for the U.S. Agricultural Research Service.

The work was conducted by Borchardt, others in his agency and the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey. Financial support came from the counties, the agencies and local groups. More testing in the counties is expected, with the next round in early August.

Mike Beiermeister

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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