Douglas County earns high marks for the quality of its groundwater.

That assessment was made by Kevin Masarik of the Center for Watershed Science and Education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point after the latest round of county-sponsored well testing.

Douglas County created a well testing program in 2017; the first round of tests subsidized by the county were conducted in 2018. The latest round was completed in November.

“Our big goal is to establish a groundwater basis so we know what the quality is should we get a large animal farm in the county,” said Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, chair of the Land Conservation Committee. “We would be able to watch that and zoom in on any problems we might have.”

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Under the program, property owners can have their wells tested at a reduced cost. The county subsidizes testing costs and uses the results to create a database.

“Overall, with respect to land use constituents, I would say that it would rank very high,” Masarik said. “I would give it an ‘A’ with nitrates, chloride, pesticides. There is very little evidence of prevalence of those things in the groundwater.”

Douglas County is much lower than the rest of the state when it comes to those issues, Masarik said.

“There are some small pockets where there are some naturally saline groundwater where people might notice some issues, but that’s the result of natural phenomenon,” Masarik said.

Those issues aren’t related to human activity and there is a tendency for higher iron and manganese as a result, he said.

Iron may be beneficial to health but can create red and yellow stains on clothing and fixtures and increases the risk for iron bacteria which will cause odor or an oily film.

Manganese in groundwater is common in northern Wisconsin and can cause black or brown precipitate and staining on fixtures. While considered suitable for drinking at levels below 0.3 milligrams per liter, long-term exposure may harm the nervous system.

Since Douglas County launched its groundwater testing project in 2018, few wells have tested at manganese levels higher than 0.3 mg/L.

Testing performed in November revealed elevated levels of iron primarily in the northern part of the county, and elevated levels of manganese as far south as Solon Springs, similar properties to well testing conducted in prior years.

“With respect to land use, Douglas County ranks very, very well,” Masarik said.

Hendrickson said she's grateful to people who have shown "good citizenship" by participating in the program.

Anyone interested in having their groundwater tested is encouraged to contact the Land and Water Conservation Office at 715-395-1380 or landconservation@douglascountywi.org.

Ashley Vande Voort, land conservationist, said funding for the program hasn’t been decided yet because of the pandemic, but the office is trying to determine interest.