DNR Inspecting Unity Wells for Contamination

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Marjorie Carpenter has been a resident of Unity, a small town on the border of Marathon and Clark County, for more than 20 years. She recently got a letter in the mail that had some rather unsettling news. It said her water well was contaminated.

"When I read that, something inside me died. I've been drinking this water for 20 years and it's been clean," Carpenter said. "You sit there and you ask, why me? Why me?"

The contamination is caused by tetrachloroethylene, a chemical used by what was once a laundromat in Unity in the 1970s. The chemical was widely used in the dry cleaning industry then. The property is now a gas station. Effort were made to clean up the property site in the early 1990s, which did result in safe water supplies, until now.

"Three weeks ago we collected more groundwater samples that indicated the contaminant was still present," DNR hydrogeologist David Rozeboom said. "It's also present in some wells that were previously sampled and clean."

4 private wells have been contaminated, but 22 will still need to be tested. Those who have contaminated wells are receiving some form of assistance from the DNR.

"We're providing clean bottled water as soon as we determine that the wells were impacted," Rozeboom said.

"I really don't want to live with bottled water for the next 20 years while they decide what to do with this we;;," Carpenter said.

Long term exposure to tetrachloroethylene can increase the chance of cancer, birth defects, as well as liver and kidney damage.

Residents with testing questions are encouraged to contact Dave Rozeboom, Hydrogeologist, at david.rozeboom@wisconsin.gov or 715-421-7873; or Connie Antonuk, natural resources manager, at connie.antonuk@wisconsin.gov or 175-365-8946. Residents with health questions may contact Roy Irving of DHS at 608-266-2663.

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