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Emerald residents deal with water issues

In a continuing effort to encourage more regular testing of well water in St. Croix County, the Land and Water Conservation Office has been working with Town of Emerald residents over the past few months.

A total of 39 residents volunteered to have their well water tested in the recent program. Six of the tests came back with indications that bacteria had tainted the water.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources tested some of the samples as well and found manure in some samples.

According to Robert Heise, director of the Land and Water Conservation Office, officials will work with residents to correct the problem. All residents retested their water to make sure the sample wasn't contaminated in the collection process.

After contamination levels are verified, some homeowners may have to clean out their wells by pouring chlorine down the system and flushing it out.

Others may have to dig deeper wells if the bacterial problem persists, Heise said.

The Land and Water Conservation Office's attention now shifts to the Town of Forest. An informational meeting is set for May 9 to inform Forest residents about the hazard of untested well water.

"Our goal is to get people to test their water so they know what they're drinking," Heise said. "They should test it more often."

Groundwater across St. Croix County is susceptible to contamination due to underlying bedrock and karsts in the region.

Karsts are like underground caves and made from fractures in the bedrock. They can affect the water supply, even if wells are drilled deeply.

If a well and karst merge, the well could get recharge water. Recharge water returns to the groundwater supply through the soil quickly. In some cases, recharge water returns to the water supply within days.

When water has that short of a time to readjust, contaminates like E. coli can get in the supply and cause sicknesses.

According to county officials, one family in Emerald was always getting sick but didn't know why. After testing their well, they found they had E. coli in their well.

The county office tries to retest well water in every township every two years to make sure contamination problems aren't popping up, Heise said.

The county works with a testing lab in Colfax to determine if contamination is occurring in the various townships.