Public was ‘never in danger’ representative says

By Kellen Olshefski


Local residents might have been alarmed when they received a letter enclosed with their utility bill this month notifying them of the presence of arsenic in Elkhorn’s drinking water. However, officials explained the letter at Monday’s Council meeting in an effort to reassure councilmembers and residents alike there is no need for concern.

Elkhorn residents received a notice with their utility bill this month alerting them to water samples collected on October 26 and 27 that showed arsenic levels above the Maximum Contaminant Level. The letter further stated that it is not immediate risk, and if it were, residents would have been notified immediately. Additionally, the letter noted that residents do not need to use an alternative water supply.

According to Doug Snyder of Baxter & Woodman, the firm that worked to complete Elkhorn’s newest water treatment facility off Cobb Road, the firm received a notice of violation from the Wisconsin DNR on January 14 for water samples taken in October that contained arsenic levels above the set standards for drinking water.

According to Snyder, Baxter & Woodman is following the protocol of the notice of violation, including the public notification, and that the firm is taking responsibility for the incident, though he says the public was never in danger.

“I can assure you there was no harm to the public at any point in time with that sampling,” he said.

Snyder explained that the sample was taken as investigative testing of the plant when it was first being prepared for use after contractors had finished their work.

He said that the firm sampled the water without adding arsenic the first week and sampled it the following week with arsenic. According to Snyder, the samples that were sent to the DNR should have been marked as investigative samples. However, as they were not, Snyder said the firm was notified of a violation as those investigative samples were higher than the standard allowed.

Snyder said they have been working with the DNR since the plant first came online and it has been fully compliant since November, noting that recent testing data shows it is still in compliance.

According to Snyder, the arsenic standard is 10 parts per billion, with the City’s newest treatment plant removing arsenic down to 7.2 parts per billion. Furthermore, Snyder noted that levels pre-treatment come out of the well at 49 parts per billion.

“That plant has been operational since we truly, fully put it online in November,” he said. “It’s been removing the arsenic. There’s never been an issue with the public getting the arsenic, but since we have the notice of violation, the DNR has a system and we are into that system right now with the public notification, the follow-up and the meetings.

“But, I can assure you that plant has been functional with no issues since the second week of November.”



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