Earlier this year.
the La Crosse County Health Department received a
600-thousand dollar grant to expand well water testing
for private well owners.
And what they're finding.
could have a significant impact on your health.
News eight's Eric Jacobson tells us what health officials
have been looking for in a 'News Eight Investigates'
Martha and Mike,
*Arsenic* in private wells is becoming a growing concern
for officials at the La Crosse County Health Department.
Surprisingly, it's an element that is naturally occuring
It has no taste or smell.
making it impossible to determine if it's in water
without a test.
Arsenic was first discovered in Wisconsin groundwater
As you can see on this map.
the Fox Valley region in
the state has been hit particularly
hard by arsenic contamination.
as we take a closer look.
La Crosse County has seen the contaminent as well.
Health standards say anything above 10 parts per billion
could be hazardous to your health.
parts of La Crosse County is measuring arsenic levels
30 times above that standard.
But as health officials will explain.
there is not enough conclusive data to determine the
extent of the problem.
And low-level exposure to the contaminent over a long
period of time can have a significant impact on someone's
A lot of things we see manifest start in the skin
We'll see funny little bumps, and funny little sores,
and thickening of the skin on the hands and feet.
Edit Probably some of the biggest concerns we have
with exposure to arsenic
over long-term are more cancer-related.
Specifically, skin cancer, bladder cancer, and lung
cancer are probably the most common cancers we see
associated with more chronic exposure to arsenic.
Because of concerns over property values.
owners of those wells who have tested postive for
arsenic declined to speak on camera.
However, I spoke with the La Crosse Realty Association
and was told the owners of those homes would have
to disclose their findings to potential buyers.
So future homeowners would be safe from arsenic if
the contaminent is found and treated.
But health officials are concerned about the well
owners who haven't tested their water for arsenic.
and who may not know that they have this potentially
dangerous element in their water.
In a small room in the Town of Farmington.
in rural La Crosse County.
Bradley Walker is quitely listening to a presentation
from the health department.
We saw the meeting in the paper tonight, and we decided
What he's hearing.
is an alarming discovery of contaiminents in private
I think a lot of these wells are probably old.
They've had no maitenence done on them, and they haven't
been tested, or they haven't been tested for 20 or
He's had his water tested for Nitrate and bacteria
but never for arsenic.
He says this meeting is convincing him to have his
water tested again.
I want to do some further testing on the well water.
I want to do a pH, metal panel, and I'll test for
Residents like Walker are who the La Crosse County
health department is trying to convice to test their
through their new federal grant.
Right now, there's no regulation that dictates to
people that they have to test their water.
It's really up to the well owner to decide what kind
of monitering they want to do.
The La Crosse County Health Department estimates *only*
around 600 out of 8,000 private wells have been tested
for arsenic in the county.
About 2.5 percent of those samples have exceeded what's
considered the safe level of arsenic in water.
While that may not sound like much.
officials say the level of arsenic found in those
We've seen readings as high as 300.
So 30 times what's considered an acceptable amout.
Edit When I hear 300 or 350, that's a major major
problem that will affect a person's health.
County Health Officials say those levels appeared
in the Southern part of La Crosse County.
in the townships of Shelby.
Once we started seeing wells show up with these metals,
it really made us ponder, what's out there that we
don't know about?
The Health Department in La Crosse has been able to
test for nitrates and bacteria since for several years.
But well owners had to send their test samples to
labs outside of La Crosse
for arsenic and other contaminents.
But through their grant.
the department ...
This is our atomic absorption spectrometer.
Is making it possible to test right here in La Crosse.
We'll be able to measure concentrations down to parts
per billion, which is extremely small.
The County is also hoping to use the Federal grant
to create a map.
showing the extent of the arsenic problem.
To create the data for the map .
the Health Department is using meetings.
like this one in the Town of Farmington.
to convey their message.
Without the grant, we would probably be still back
where we were.
Doctors at Gundersen say it is essential for all private
well owners to test their water.
Anybody that's buying a new home, or having a new
baby, or has young children, I recommend to get your
She's glad the county is educating the public on the
importance of testing for arsenic.
It's nice to know that the County may be expanding
some of their testing, because I want my family to
be safe, and then if I have beef cattle, and I want
to sell my beef cattle, I want my beef cattle will
be OK for people to consume them.
She stresses that once a problem is discovered.
it can most likely be solved with a filtration system.
We have several filter systems at the point of entry,
where the well water comes into the house that filter
We have secondary filtration system, which is at our
sink, where we have a reverse osmosis system there,
where it filters out things like nitrates and arsenic.
the public information meeting has convinced him to
once again to test his water.
Peace of mind more than anything else.
I just want to be sure there's nothing there.
And health officials hope others will soon do the
We really don't know what's in the water, until it's
In La Crosse County, EJ, N8.
Because of the grant.
the Health Department can now test for arsenic.
as well as many other elements.
The cost to test arsenic is 29 dollars.
testing nitrate is 25 dollars.
and a full metal scan will cost 65 dollars.
You have been talking about elements and contaminents
that appear in private wells.
What about public wells.
which service places such as businesses and restaurants
right here in La Crosse?
Cities are currently required by law to keep levels
for arsenic and other elements below the federal standard.
According to the city of La Crosse.
the 20-15 water report shows that the city had levels
of arsenic at 4 parts per billion.
which is below the health standard.
But if you look at levels from 20-10.
the number was at 0.6.
so the trend is showing a change in arsenic levels.