Private Wells in Wisconsin

For April 10, 2019        
Hi WN@TL Fans,
The first house I ever owned was on an old farmstead on McGirr Road in DeKalb County in Illinois. The constellation of run-down buildings included a barn, a corn crib, a hog shed, and a machine shed.   
There was one more structure.  It was so small I thought it was a dog house when I first viewed the property.  But when I checked it out up close, to my surprise it contained an above-ground pump.  It sat over what would become my own private well. 
The wellhead was about 10 yards from the edge of the corn field that surrounded the farmstead. The barn and the hog shed were no longer home to livestock, so I didn’t have to worry much about manure issues (with the significant exception of the house’s septic system).  But I did have to worry about chemicals such as the herbicide atrazine that could leach from the field into my well water.
This was the first time I’d ever lived in a place where the water coming out of the kitchen faucet didn’t come from a municipal system drawing water from aquifers deep underground.  That also meant my home water was treated neither with chlorine to kill microbes nor with fluoride to protect my teeth.  It meant I had to be tuned to the possibility of toxins in my well that would go undetected if I didn’t arrange for the testing.  
To my knowledge, I never had any issues arise with my own water on McGirr Road:  in a phrase, all went well. But this is not the case for everyone who lives out in the country, whether in northern Illinois or in central Wisconsin.  
When you own your own piece of land, you hope you can sustain your own peace of mind when it comes to the reliability, safety & quality of the well water you cook with, bathe in, wash with, and drink.   
This week (April 10 Kevin Masarik from the Center for Watershed Science & Education at UW-Stevens Point as well as from UW-Madison Divison of Extension will be here for a talk entitled “Private Wells in Wisconsin:  An Overview of Common Water Quality Problems.”  Such wells are the source of one of the most pressing issues during this “Year of Clean Drinking Water”.
Here’s how Kevin describes his talk:
“News about well water quality in Wisconsin may have people wondering about the quality of what’s coming out of their faucets at home. While reporting often focuses on problems, the good news is that the majority of people in Wisconsin do have access to good water. However, individuals may not know where to go for information about their drinking water, how clean it is or what to do if there is a problem. 
“We will explore the complex relationship between land-use, geology, soils, well construction and well water quality. Some of these concerns such as pathogens, nitrate and arsenic may be important to talk about because of potential health reasons. Other common complaints people often have about the taste, color or odor of their well water may be related to the amount of iron or other minerals that occur in their water. Deciding what to test for, how often to test and what to do problems exist are the types of routine management decisions that well owners are responsible for making; often times there may be a simple solution. 
“Our goal is to provide and overview of the science and other useful information every rural homeowner should know for managing their well water.”
About the Speaker:
Kevin Masarik is a groundwater education specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He has assisted tens of thousands of well owners through locally organized well-water testing programs. 
The benefits of these programs are twofold: individual well owners have a better understanding of how to manage their household water supply; and secondly, the results have helped paint a detailed picture of water quality across Wisconsin. He uses the information learned from his outreach and other research efforts to educate citizens and community leaders across the state about the importance of groundwater to Wisconsin’s overall quality of life.
Next week (April 17) Keith Bechtol and Ellen Bechtol take us to the ends of the Earth to show how researchers use a range of observatories to help us get out-of-this-world insights into stars, energy, particles, matter, and other stuff that matters.
The title of their talk is “The Big Picture:  Science & Public Outreach with Astronomical Surveys.”  The observatories include UW-Madison’s IceCUBE Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile.
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.
Thanks again!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension