Human Waste Contamination Linked To Unsafe Water In Wisconsin

by Peak Johnson, originally posted on May 10, 2016


Wisconsin drinking water has had its fair share of pollution issues.

Manure has been blamed for much of the bacteria and viruses that inhabit the state’s water, according to GazetteXtra. However, what might be shocking is that human waste is a problem as well.

According to the most recent drinking water report from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the most frequent contaminant found in Wisconsin’s public water systems is bacteria that might stem from human waste.

Coliform, for example, can be an indicator of disease-causing viruses, bacteria, and parasites, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Researcher and microbiologist Mark Borchardt discovered viruses in Wisconsin groundwater in a series of studies while working for Marshfield Clinic. Further research indicated that these contaminants probably came from leaking sewer lines.

“These would be bugs that cause acute gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea, vomiting, those sort of classic symptoms, but then they can lead to more severe illness,” Borchardt said.

Coliform bacteria could be present in as many as 169,000 of Wisconsin’s private wells, according to a 2013 study by researchers with the state Department of Health Services. The DNR recommends testing wells each year. Currently, only about 16 percent of private well owners do test their wells.

GazetteXtra reported that the septic regulations are to blame for not being equipped to protect against the many diseases.

Between 2007 and 2010, an estimated 18 percent of the 3,868 private wells in Wisconsin tested positive for coliform bacteria, according to Wisconsin Watch. The problem also plagues municipal water systems where coliform bacteria accounts for most of the violations of health standards are recorded each year.

Researchers recommended that the state reconsider allowing conventional septic systems to be built above fractured limestone aquifers, especially those serving facilities such as restaurants that generate a lot of wastewater.


Learn More