DNR tests tainted water in Kewaunee County

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KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – Recent rainfall has left one Kewaunee County couple with tainted water.

Not only is it undrinkable, but you wouldn’t want to wash your dishes or shower in it.

Rob and Erika Balza live about a mile outside Luxemburg. When they went to brush their teeth before bed last night, they saw brown water that smelled like manure coming out of their bathroom faucet. The brown, murky water is also in their toilets.

Living in the country, they say they’ve had these issues before, but say it has never been this bad before. That’s why they decided to immediately contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, who sent a representative Thursday afternoon — along with someone from land conservation — to get water samples tested in a lab for viruses, nitrates and E. coli.

“Once those results are given to us, then we can start working with the homeowner to identify how to fix it, whether that’s drilling a new well, whether that’s putting reverse osmosis and filtration on to treat the water, we are not sure yet,”said Davina Bonness, conservationist with the Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department.

They are also looking into recent manure applications at nearby farms.

“We are looking into a full scope of everything that is happening in that area,” said Bonness.

Bonness said the water test results should be back within a week or two, but for now, the water is completely unusable leaving the Balza’s with little they can do.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, you know,” Erika Balza said. “If we need to get a new well, if that will even help. I’ve heard of somebody who just drilled a new well six months ago, and it’s already bad.”

“I mean it’s gotten to the point where the nitrates have gotten so bad in the water that twice now they’ve eaten through copper pipes in the basement,” Rob Balza said. “I had to replace copper with plastic because the nitrates have eaten through the copper.”

For the time being, the Balza’s have to refrain from using any of the water. The couple has never used their tap water for drinking water. Their fridge is full of bottled water. However, they do use the tap water for laundry, dishes and showering. To help the Balza family, Peninsula Pride Farms will be providing drinking water for them for the next three months.

Lee Luft, chair of the Kewaunee County Groundwater Task Force, said unfortunately what the Balza’s are experiencing has happened before.

“We have simply too much manure being spread over what is a very vulnerable geology in northeast Wisconsin,” said Luft. “We have relatively shallower soils and we have cracked bedrock and when there is too much manure being applied to some of those kinds of geologies, the potential for groundwater contamination is quite high.”

Luft said the county is aware of water contamination incidents and they are working hard to address the issues.

“We are working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, and our county is working very hard on these issues,” said Luft. “But, right now we are in a period where there is a lot of active manure application and we’ve had rains so it is a time to be cautious and to make sure your well is safe. If you are unsure, have it tested.”

Luft said if your well is contaminated, there are organizations that can help, whether it be cost-sharing or state aid. If you are concerned about your well water, you can contact the DNR, Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department, or the Kewaunee County Groundwater Task Force.