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County wins grant to test rural wells

By Brandi Makuski

Portage Co. has won a state grant designed to improve private well-water testing in rural areas.

According to a news release from Portage Co. Health and Human Services, the grant will be used to further a groundwater study in Nelsonville, a village with about 150 residents located in the eastern part of the county.

The $9,772 grant comes from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, according to Gary Garske, county health officer.

“Nearly two out of every three people in our county get their water from private wells,” Garske said. “Wells must be tested to ensure water is safe to drink and through this project, residents of the Village of Nelsonville will be able to test their wells for free.”

The project is a collaboration between the county’s division of public health and the planning and zoning department, one that should help fill the gap in well-testing data.

According to Jen McNelly, Portage Co. Water Resource Specialist, only 70 water samples, representing 41 private wells, have ever been tested in the village. Of those samples, she said, 40 percent exceed the drinking water standard for nitrate-nitrogen.

Villagers have expressed concerns, McNelly said, but without village-wide data have no way to address the issue.

“This project will allow us to establish a current baseline of water quality data that will help the village to
make decisions regarding water quality in the future,” she said.

A round of testing in the village is planned for the early part of January of 2019.

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