Floods cause DNR to warn water well users of contamination; manure probably not to blame
KEWAUNEE – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is warning those who use private water wells to be aware of possible water contamination after this week's floods.
A local farmer and advocate for water quality said manure runoff from farms, which has been an issue for well users in Kewaunee County, isn't likely to contribute to possible contamination from the floods at this time.
A press release issued Friday by the DNR Office of Communications said flood waters and runoff from rain may contain illness-causing bacteria and other contaminants, and the water in wells covered by or near flood waters may become contaminated. It also said wells located in pits, basements and low-lying areas are especially susceptible.
"At this time of year we encourage well owners to watch for signs of flooding and note any change in the color, smell or taste of their drinking water," Liesa Lehmann, DNR private water section chief, said in the release.
The DNR recommended that people whose wells are covered by or near flood waters should stop drinking the water from it and find another, safe source; make sure the well is disinfected once the waters recede; and test a sample from the well before drinking its water again.
While well contamination in Kewaunee County from manure has been a problem in recent years, Don Niles, president of Peninsula Pride Farms, a local farmer-led organization working with experts on water quality in Kewaunee and Door counties, said even with the flooding, manure runoff shouldn't be much of a factor at this time of the year. Niles said it's too early for most farms to have spread manure, and manure pits are more empty than usual, so overflow shouldn't be a concern.
"I couldn't speak for most (farmers); I could only speak generally," Niles said. "But I don't think there's much agricultural activity out there right now under these conditions … (and) most people try to get their manure pits as emptied as they can in the fall, so there's more wiggle room in the spring. Most farms are still in that safety zone now. I think the concern is more about the actual water going into the pits — it makes the manure more runny — as opposed to overflow.
Niles said the big concern floods can cause for farmers at this time of the season is more about equipment damage to buildings, wiring and the land itself.
"I wouldn't see (well contamination) as a farm-specific issue right now," Niles said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Floods cause DNR to warn water well users of contamination; manure probably not to blame