||This report provides the most current
information and data found, as of May 2007, unless
OF DRINKING WATER
Wisconsin enjoys a generally clean
and abundant groundwater resource.A2 This resource is present because of the
state’s geologic history and climate; this resource is protected
through strong state and federal regulations, and the cooperative efforts of
water systems, trade associations, individual operators, planning commissions,
and state and federal science agencies.
Drinking water in Wisconsin is provided
by either public water systems or private wells. A public water system is defined
as a system that provides public water for human consumption, if such a system
has at least 15 service connections or regularly serves an average of at least
25 individuals daily at least 60 days out of the year. Wisconsin has nearly 11,500
public water systems which meet the daily water needs of about 4 million people.A1 The Wisconsin
Department of Natural Resources (WDNR)A3 oversees these public systems, and
additional information can be found online.
Public water systems that are owned by a community are called municipal
water systems.A4 Ashland County has 4 municipal
In addition to the public water systems, about 850,000
private wells provide drinking water to Wisconsin's population. Unlike public
water systems, protection and maintenance of a private well is largely the responsibility
of homeowners. Information on how to build and protect your private water supply
can be found on the WDNR
web site.A5 The USGS is finalizing the "Summary of Water
Use in Wisconsin for 2005." When released, this summary will show the percentage
of the Ashland County population whose drinking water comes from private wells
versus municipal systems.
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WELLHEAD PROTECTION PLANS AND ORDINANCES
- 1 of 4 municipal water systems in Ashland
County has a wellhead protection plan: Butternut. B1
- 0 of 4 municipal water systems in Ashland
County have a wellhead protection ordinance.B1
For recommendations of groundwater protection policies
and some outstanding examples of innovative groundwater protection policies adopted
by other communities see Groundwater
Wellhead protection plans are developed to achieve
groundwater pollution prevention measures within public water supply wellhead
areas. In some areas of the state, sophisticated groundwater flow modeling techniques
were used to delineate source
water areas for municipal wells. A wellhead protection
plan uses public involvement to delineate the wellhead protection area, inventory
potential groundwater contamination sources, and manage the wellhead protection
area. All new municipal wells are required to have a wellhead protection plan.
A wellhead protection ordinance is a zoning ordinance that implements the wellhead
protection plan by controlling land uses in the wellhead protection area.B2
Of those municipal water systems that have wellhead
protection (WHP) plans, some have a WHP plan for all of their wells, while others
only have a plan for one or some of their wells. Similarly, of those municipal
water systems that have WHP ordinances, some ordinances apply to all of their
wells and others just one or some of their wells.
ANIMAL WASTE MANAGEMENT ORDINANCES
- Ashland County has not
adopted an animal waste management ordinance.B3
Most Wisconsin counties have adopted an animal waste
management ordinance that applies to all unincorporated areas of the county
(areas outside of city and village boundaries). While the purposes of such ordinances
vary among counties, a key purpose is often to protect the groundwater and surface
water resources. This is accomplished by regulations such as:
- Permitting of animal waste storage
- Permitting of new and expanding feedlots;
- Nutrient management;
- Overflow of manure storage structures;
- Unconfined manure stacking or piling
within areas adjacent to stream banks, lakeshores, and in drainage channels;
- Direct runoff from feedlots or stored
manure to waters of the state;
- Unlimited livestock access to waters
of the state where high concentrations of animals prevent adequate sod cover
More information is available from the WDATCP.
ADDITIONAL GROUNDWATER PROTECTION POLICIES
Your county may have additional policies in place
for groundwater protection. A good way to find out is to check with the county
conservationist and local zoning administrators.
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SPENT ON CLEANUP
PETROLEUM ENVIRONMENTAL CLEANUP FUND AWARD
- Over $8 million have been spent on
petroleum cleanup in Ashland County from leaking underground storage tanks, which
equates to $514 per county resident.C2
The Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA)
program was created in response to enactment of federal regulations requiring
release prevention from underground storage tanks and cleanup of existing contamination
from those tanks. PECFA is a reimbursement program returning a portion of incurred
remedial cleanup costs to owners of eligible petroleum product systems, including
home heating oil systems.C1
As of May 31, 2007, $8,488,678 have
been reimbursed by the PECFA fund to clean up 69 petroleum-contaminated
sites in Ashland County. This equates to $514 per
county resident, which is greater
statewide average of $264 per resident.C2
NITRATE REMOVAL SYSTEMS
- No municipal
water systems in
Ashland County have spent money to reduce nitrate levels.
As of 2005, over 20 municipal water systems in Wisconsin
have spent over $24 million reducing nitrate concentrations in municipal water
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- From 1979 to 2004, total water use in Ashland County has increased from just
over 3.2 million gallons per day to 4.5 million gallons per day.
- The increase in total water use over this period is due largely to an increase
in industrial use. Commercial usage has decreased by a half.
- The proportion of county water use supplied by groundwater increased from
22.4% in 1979 to almost 42% in 2000 and decreased to 17.6% in 2005.
As part of the National Water-Use Information Program,
the USGS stores water-use data in standardized format for different categories
of water use. In 1978, the USGS entered into a cooperative program with the WDNR
to inventory water use in Wisconsin. Since that time, five reports summarizing
water use have been published (Lawrence and Ellefson, 1982D2;
Ellefson and others, 1987D3;
Ellefson and others, 1993D4;
Ellefson and others, 1997D5;
Ellefson and others, 2002D6;
Buchwald and others, 2008D7).
Water use in Wisconsin in these summary reports is
reported in the following categories: domestic, livestock, aquaculture, industrial,
commercial, public use and losses, thermoelectric or mining. References describing
the methods for collecting data and estimating water use are provided in the
* Thermoelectric and mining data are not considered
in water-use tables or figures on this web site. Thermoelectric-power water use
is the amount of water used in the process of generating thermoelectric power.
The predominant use of water is as non-contact cooling water to condense the
steam created to turn the turbines and generate electricity.D1
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OF GROUNDWATER TO CONTAMINANTS
In Wisconsin, 70% of residents and 97% of communities rely on groundwater
as their drinking water source. Wisconsin has abundant quantities of high-quality
groundwater, but once groundwater is contaminated, it's expensive
and often not technically possible to clean. Because of these factors, we need
to be careful to protect our groundwater from contamination. Our activities
on the land can contaminate groundwater - most contaminants originate on the
land surface and filter down to the groundwater. In some cases however,
groundwater can become contaminated from natural causes such as radioactivity
due to the presence of radium in certain types of rocks.
MORE ABOUT SUSCEPTIBILITY
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- 100% of 56 private well samples collected
in Ashland County from 1990-2006 met the health-based drinking water limit for
Of the 56 samples that have
been collected in the county, no samples were above 2 mg/L (milligrams per liter,
or parts per million) and no samples exceeded the health-based drinking water
limit of 10 mg/L as nitrate-nitrogen.F1
As shown in the map on the right, there are no samples
where nitrate levels were elevated.F2
Introduction and Sources of Nitrate
In 2006, the WDNR and the Wisconsin Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (WDATCP) reported that nitrate-nitrogen
(NO3-N) is the most widespread groundwater contaminant in Wisconsin,
and that the nitrate problem is increasing both in extent and severity.F3 In
Wisconsin's groundwater, 80% of nitrate inputs originate from manure spreading,
agricultural fertilizers, and legume cropping systems.F4 On-site wastewater
systems (septic systems) can also be a significant nitrate source in densely
populated areas, areas where fractured bedrock is near the surface, or areas
with coarse-textured soils.F5
Concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen in private water
supplies frequently exceed the drinking water limit (federal and state Maximum
Contaminant Level, or MCL) of 10 mg/L. In 2005, the WDNR combined data from three
statewide groundwater databases and found that 11.6% of 48,818 private wells
exceeded the nitrate limit.F3
use affects nitrate concentrations in groundwater. As shown in the figure on
the right, an analysis of over 35,000 Wisconsin drinking water samples found
that drinking water from private wells was three times more likely to be unsafe
to drink due to high nitrate in agricultural areas than in forested areas. High
nitrate levels were also more common in sandy areas where the soil is more
with high nitrate from agricultural lands is more likely to contain pesticides
than groundwater with low nitrate levels.F7
Health effects of nitrate
Ecosystem effects of nitrate
- A 2002 study estimated that 12%
of private drinking water wells in the region of Wisconsin that includes Ashland
County contained a detectable level of an herbicide or herbicide metabolite.
Pesticides occur in groundwater more commonly in agricultural regions, but can
occur anywhere pesticides are stored or applied.F24
- There are no atrazine prohibition
areas in Ashland County.F25
Definition and Use
A pesticide is any substance used to kill, control
or repel pests or to prevent the damage that pests may cause.F26 Included
in the broad term “pesticide” are herbicides to control weeds, insecticides
to control insects, and fungicides to control fungi and molds. Pesticides are
used by businesses and homeowners as well as by farmers, but figures for the
amounts and specific types of pesticides used are not generally available on
a county-by-county basis.
A 2005 report indicates that approximately 13 million
pounds of pesticides are applied to major agricultural crops in Wisconsin each
year, including over 8.5 million pounds of herbicides, 315,000 pounds of insecticides,
one million pounds of fungicides, and 3 million pounds of other chemicals (this
last category applied mainly to potatoes).F27 The report also shows
that herbicides are used on 100% of carrots for processing, 99% of potatoes,
98% of cucumbers for processing, 98% of soybeans, 97% of field corn, 89% of snap
beans for processing, 87% of sweet corn, and 84% of green peas for processing.
Insecticides are used on 97% of potatoes, 96% of carrots, and 88% of apples.
Fungicides are used on 99% of potatoes, 88% of carrots, and 89% of apples.
Crops by acreage grown
in Ashland County in 2005-06
and average pesticide application per crop in Wisconsin.
Pounds of pesticides
applied per acre
|Forage (dry hay
application rate was not found.
QuickstatsF45 and USDA
Statistics by StateF46
The number of pounds of pesticide applied per acre
in Wisconsin varies greatly by crop, from 28 pounds/acre for apples to less than
one pound/acre for oats and barley (see table below).F27
Total pounds of pesticides
major crops in Wisconsin, 2004-2005.
of pesticides applied
Pounds of pesticides
applied per acre
|Carrots for processing
|Green peas for
|Cucumbers for processing
Atrazine Prohibition Areas
As of 2006, the WDATCP has prohibited the use of the
popular corn herbicide atrazine on 102 designated atrazine prohibition areas
in Wisconsin, covering about 1.2 million acres.F25 There
are no atrazine prohibition areas in Ashland County.
Environmental fate of pesticides
Once a pesticide is applied, it ideally will harm
only the target pest and then break down through natural processes into harmless
However, the actual fate of pesticides in the environment
may include evaporation into the air; runoff into surface water; plant uptake;
breakdown by sunlight, soil microorganisms or chemical reactions; attachment
to soil particles; leaching into groundwater; or remaining on the plant surface
and removal at harvest.
The WDATCP conducted a private well water study from
2000-2001, looking for some of the most commonly used herbicides in Wisconsin.F29 From
that study, the statewide estimate of the proportion of private drinking water
wells that contained a detectable level of a herbicide or herbicide metabolite
(breakdown product) was 37.7%. The map at the right shows the estimated percentage
of wells containing herbicide or herbicide metabolites by region. The study did
not look at less commonly used herbicides or any insecticides or fungicides.
WDATCP is doing a similar study in 2007 that includes analysis for a greater
number of pesticides.
Health effects of pesticides
- 100% of
4 private well samples collected in Ashland County met the health standard for
Of the 4 water samples analyzed
for arsenic in Ashland County, none contained detectable arsenic. Most private
wells in the county have unknown arsenic levels.
Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in some
of Wisconsin’s aquifers and may contaminate well water drawn from those
aquifers. It is a particular problem in parts of the Fox River valley of northeastern
Wisconsin. However, arsenic has been detected in wells in every county in Wisconsin,
and arsenic concentrations greater than the drinking water limit of 10 µg/L
have been documented in 51 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.F3
Health effects of arsenic
Release of arsenic into groundwater
For further information on arsenic, please visit the WDNR
Arsenic in Drinking Water and Groundwater web site.
OTHER GROUNDWATER CONTAMINANTS
Information on volatile organic compounds, pharmaceuticals
and personal care products, and chloride.
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SOURCES OF CONTAMINANTS
Since groundwater gets into the ground at the land
surface, it makes sense that what happens on the land surface can have impact
on groundwater. A great many land use activities have the potential to impact
the natural quality of groundwater, as shown in the table below.
A landfill may leach contaminants into the ground that end up contaminating groundwater.
Gasoline may leak from an underground storage tank into groundwater. Fertilizers
and pesticides can seep into the ground from application on farm fields, golf
courses or lawns. Intentional dumping or accidental spills of paint, used motor
oil, or other chemicals on the ground can result in contaminated groundwater.
The list could go on and on.G1 The
rest of this section provides county-specific information about potential sources
of groundwater contaminants.
ACTIVITIES THAT MAY CONTAMINATE GROUNDWATERG1
CONTAMINATED GROUNDWATER AND/OR SOIL
are 31 open-status sites in Ashland County that have contaminated groundwater
and/or soil. These sites are composed of 18 Leaking Underground Storage Tank
(LUST) sites, 12 Environmental Repair (ERP) sites and 1 Voluntary Party Liability
Exemption (VPLE) site.G2
Properties that were or are contaminated with hazardous
substances can be found using the WDNR's Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment
Tracking System (BRRTS). The figure on the right shows the BRRTS map of contaminated
sites in Ashland County. Royal blue diamonds on the map indicate open leaking
underground storage tank (LUST) sites which have contaminated soil and/or groundwater
with petroleum, which includes toxic and cancer-causing substances. However,
given time, petroleum contamination naturally breaks down in the environment.
Turquoise diamonds on the map indicate open environmental repair (ERP) sites
which are sites other than LUSTs that have contaminated soil and/or groundwater.
Examples include industrial spills or dumping, buried containers of hazardous
substances, and closed landfills that have caused contamination. More information
for the sites on the figure is available
About the BRRTS
What is a Hazardous Substance?
How to use BRRTS information in comprehensive planning
For more information, please see Environmental
Contamination – The Basics, WDNR publication PUB-RR-674 July, 2004.
CONCENTRATED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATION (CAFO):
- There are no concentrated animal feeding
operations in Ashland County.G3
definition, CAFOs have greater than 1000
animal units. CAFOs are required under
their Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permits to practice
proper manure management and ensure that adverse impacts to water quality do
not occur. Permit applicants must submit detailed information about the
operation, a manure management plan, plans and specifications for all manure
storage facilities, and a completed environmental analysis questionnaire. Once
a WPDES CAFO permit is issued, operators must comply with the terms of the permit
by following approved construction specifications and manure spreading plans,
conducting a monitoring and inspection program, and providing annual reports.
potential groundwater contaminants from agriculture include fertilizers and
pesticides. Large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers are used when fields are planted
continuously with corn, and they can leach into groundwater as nitrate.
For more information, please visit the WDNR
CAFO web site.
- There are no licensed landfills in
The county may have additional facilities listed in
the Registry of Waste Disposal Sites, available from the WDNR, that includes
active, inactive, and abandoned sites where solid or hazardous wastes were known,
or were likely, to have been disposed. The inclusion of a site on the Registry
does not mean that environmental contamination has occurred, is occurring, or
will occur in the future. The Registry is intended to serve as a general informational
source for the public, and State and local officials, as to the location of waste
disposal sites in Wisconsin.
About Wisconsin's Solid Waste Management Program
- There is 1 Superfund site in Ashland
Ashland/NSP Lakefront Site, Ashland, WI.
What is Superfund?
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Now that you’ve inventoried groundwater data
and analyzed it, what’s next? How do you use this information to lead to
Now comes the key part of the planning process, where
it’s important to involve as many community members as possible to develop
and implement a plan of action to protect groundwater. The following sections
of this web site are intended to help your community move forward together to
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