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Publication Date

February 2007


Northeastern Wisconsin has experienced groundwater quality problems for many years. Both anecdotal and documented reports of water well contamination abound in the region. Voluntary homeowner well testing programs and sponsored research projects have indicated that a significant proportion of the water supply wells were contaminated at sometime during the year. For example, a voluntary program in Calumet County indicated that from 4.6% to 47% of the wells tested contained E.Colior were unsafe for either bacteria or nitrate respectively. Recent incidents of spring manure runoff and well contamination further highlighted the problem and focused the public's attention. In order to have a unified approach throughout the region, the UW Extension and County Conservationists in Brown, Calumet, Door, Kewaunee, and Manitowoc Counties convened a task force to consider the existing scientific data and make recommendations on how to address the problem. The Task Force included representatives of county and state agencies, the University System, and the private sector. A complete list of members can be found in the body of this report. The goals of the task force were to: Determine where our impact on the karst aquifer begins. Evaluate the best methods to reduce the impact of agriculture on groundwater quality. Prioritize the implementation of available technologies to prevent future problems. Identify gaps in our knowledge base. Task force members quickly focused on agricultural issues and agreed that because of the aquifer type, overlying soils and land use practices it would be impossible to prevent every instance of contamination but that landowners can take significant steps to reduce the potential for animal and human waste, and other materials from entering the groundwater. It also became clear that the physical environment cannot be characterized, understood, or protected by merely locating and dealing with karst features at the surface. Rather, the controlling factor is the underlying fractured carbonate bedrock. The task force relied on the best existing scientific data or understanding available to make its recommendations. The members also unanimously concluded that a uniform approach to regulation and enforcement across the entire carbonate bedrock region of northeastern Wisconsin is critical to the development of a stable and effective framework for environmental protection.

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