A new report from Madison’s Water Utility has revealed high levels of iron and manganese contamination in an east side well.
Well 8, which forms the foundation of the Olbrich Park sledding hill, only runs during the warmer months of the year. It’s used as a relief well during the dry season, when the city’s water system is strained by a lack of precipitation.
The well mainly serves homes in the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara and Marquette neighborhoods.
According to a semi-annual water quality report issued by Madison’s Water Utility this week, Well 8 has the highest iron and manganese levels in the city. Water quality manager Joe Grande says that contamination has been a longstanding issue.
“So well eight has iron that is two times the SMCL,” he says. SMCL — or Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level — is a metric used to measure water quality. “So a secondary MCL is set for aesthetics. So either the appearance, taste or odor of the water.”
Grande told Madison’s Water Utility Board yesterday that the city regularly receives complaints about the water. That’s one of the reasons they try to limit using the nearly 800-foot well, even during the summer.
“When we have our peak demand, we struggle to keep our reservoirs full, and as a result we need to have Well 8 running,” he says.
That water shortage was further exacerbated by the closure of nearby Well 15 in 2019 due to PFAS contamination.
The water utility is planning to eventually overhaul Well 8 to address the contamination — but work on that project won’t kick off until 2025. Per Madison’s 2022 Capital Budget, which guides spending on physical infrastructure, the city is planning to allocate about four million dollars through 2027 for the project.
Community members in the area have also raised concerns over potential water contamination from the Madison Kipp Corporation, which is just a few blocks from Well 8. In 2013, a shallow monitoring well uncovered trace amounts of PCE in the upper aquifer about 600 feet from the well — although no PCE has ever been detected in Well 8 itself.
The city was planning to install a sentinel well about midway between Madison Kipp and Well 8 this fall — but it’s still in the planning phases, according to the utility’s webpage for the project.
The $120,000 sentinel well will provide early warning in case chemical contaminants begin to migrate from Madison Kipp towards Well 8.
Photo by Chali Pittman for WORT-FM