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DNR: More Private Wells Contaminated With Molybdenum

DNR officials urge private well owners in Caledonia, Oak Creek, Franklin, Muskego, Raymond and Norway to test their wells after finding high levels of molybdenum during a recent study of area groundwater.

High levels of molybdenum were found in homes in Caledonia and Oak Creek near the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant several years ago, but now more wells have been identified, a DNR official said.

The DNR recently tested for molybdenum in 153 private wells in Franklin, Muskego, Norway and Raymond and found high levels of the element in 44 of the wells in those areas too. A well at Raymond School tested at 101 micrograms per liter while the state groundwater standard is 40, according to a story in the Journal Sentinel and the DNR report.

Eric Nitschke, director of the southeast region of the DNR in Milwaukee, said the big takeaway from the DNR’s report is that more private well owners need to test their water and the DNR needs more data to find out where the molybdenum is coming from.

“Obviously we started looking at Caledonia, but it’s apparent that the molybdenum is elevated in other areas and that’s why we expanded the report into Waukesha, and western Racine counties,” Nitschke said.

What is molybdenum?

One of the issues in determining the source is that molybdenum is a naturally occurring element in the earth’s crust and in water in low levels, but it’s also a byproduct of coal combustion and industrial waste. While humans already have trace amounts of molybdenum in their bodies, drinking water with high levels of molybdenum may carry some risk to humans including digestive problems and gout, according to the report.

Why was the DNR was studying molybdenum?

The DNR expanded the scope of the study after a number of properties in the Caledonia and Oak Creek areas showed elevated levels of molybdenum. We Energies has and continues to provide a number of those residents with bottled water, according to a story published in 2010 in the Journal Times.

But the DNR report identified several potential sources of molybdenum including the We Energies plant coal ash landfill in Caledonia, which is located near the power plant in Oak Creek, Hunts Disposal Landfill in Caledonia located a mile and a half from the We Energies plant (which is currently closed and is a federal Superfund cleanup site) and the PPG Industries property located three miles west of the We Energies plan in Oak Creek.

However, the report concluded the molybdenum did not appear to be coming from Hunts Landfill, and data was inconclusive on whether the We Energies landfill was the source of the molybdenum

“One of the biggest takeaways,” Nitschke said, “is that we need to build an awareness of what molybdenum is and encourage people to have their private wells tested for it, along with bacteria and nitrates.”

But Nitschke doesn’t want people to be alarmed.

“We aren’t telling people to stop drinking the water, we want them to be aware of it,” he said.

In the meantime, Nitschke said the department plans to continue to collect more data and work with the US Geological Survey, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Safety and Professional Services to understand where the molybdenum is coming from.

People who do own private wells with a high level of molybdenum may also consider having their water distilled through a process of reverse osmosis.

“It’s not officially been approved to remove molybdenum, but the process is underway to get it approved,” Nitschke said.

The DNR will hold several informational meetings, but only one has officially been set on Feb. 11 for Caledonia.

stogieguy7 January 28, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Yet nobody can explain how molybdenum in water can flow UPHILL from the area of the power plant in Oak Creek into western Oak Creek, Franklin, etc. Nor does anyone in the media ever ASK this question.
Judi price January 30, 2013 at 06:15 AM
If you live in Oak Creek you can contact the Oak Creek Health Department. They will assist you with getting a well water test kit, give you instructions and then you have to return the filled kits to the Health Department. Staff will collect the kits a weeks worth at a time and then mail them to the Wi State Lab for testing. They will also help you if you have questions. Their number is 414-768-6539. DNR does have a map indicating some of the locations where molybdenum has been found. The Health Department can help you with that as well. Hours are Monday - Friday 8:30-4:30 pm to pick up kits. There is no charge to Oak Creek residents. The well must be the only drinking water source. If you have City water that will not be tested. Check out their website at www.oakcreekwi.org/health
vocal local 1 January 30, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Only floodwaters flow uphill in OC. Molybdenum leeches into the underground aquifers and travels thru out the aquifer to the private wells. I've seen maps that indicate a large aquifer in southern OC/Caledonia that flows north into So. Milwaukee. OC stores treated water in wells fed from the aquifers. Reportedly the treated water remains in a bubble for later retrieval and use. I don't understand the chemistry of the storage. Further, I do not understand how OC water utility, a strictly for profit public utility can continue to refuse to install necessary treated municipal water to residents with bad wells while entertaining selling water to Waukesha across the continental divide. I suspect the lack of resident and municipal elected officials efforts are tied into the mitigation funds which were not properly administered by the city of Oak Creek which OC uses to fund police and fire rather than protection of the residents from side effects of housing the nations 6th largest coal powered plant in the US. This amount is 2.25 million per year that the city has received since the first shovel was dug for expansion I believe 2002, eleven years ago or 22 million dollars. If all remember, Racine County thanks to Sam Johnson were on top of the Elm Road Plant expansion. OC residents didn’t have a clue as to what was going on behind the scenes. Bottled water is not safe. Residents would be safer to transport city water from any exterior city spigot for use. CALL THE MAYOR DEMAND USE
vocal local 1 January 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Judy, you've been in OC long enough to realize that local government doesn't represent the people. Might doesn't make right. Money is not speech. The city is operating as a business that honors special interests, I suspect, anonymous donors, possibly Gary Bellington is an example and is working against the best interest of the public in any issues involving WE ENERGIES/Wis Park. We receive 2.25 million dollars per year in mitigation funding that we were to use to protect the residents. IF the money apx. 22 million had went to protection of the residents the fact for which it was granted we would have funding to provide municipal water to homes in OC and Caledonia effected by the molybdenum but that is not what happened. City leaders perverted the efforts of the PSC and WE Energies. Now, should a resident test their well and have their water source decrease the value of their home? Testing is positive identification tied to the property. OC residents with wells should really attend the Caledonia meetings for more info. Caledonia didn't get the 2.25 million mitigation funds or did they? For some reason OC residents are in the dark. I suspect OC officials are running scared that they will be forced by the courts to provide municipal water. This is the right thing to do but they won't until forced by the courts. Do not trust city officials on this issue. Attend the meetings on the Caledonia side and hire an attorney. Residents should contact Verhalen 322-9337 for attorney name.
Tansandy January 30, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Don't rely on Caledonia. They received nothing from WE. Our village leader at the time thought it was more important to get on the Sammy Johnson band wagon and sue WE to stop the project. She cared less about the residents. Just a side note, I have lived in Caledonia for 40 years. All the time drinking fromwater my well, no testing required. They didn't care what I drank. When Municipal water came and we hooked up, we were allowed to keep our wells as long as they were separated from the municipal system. But guess what? Now they care what I wash my car, water my lawn and water my tomato plants with! Yep, every 5 years I have to get a water sample taken, and hire a well person to tell me "yes your well is in the same place as it was 5 years ago". Of course all of this requires me to pay both the well person and a hefty fee to Caledonia. Don't you just love they they take care of us?

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