By Tom Murray. CREATED May 3, 2012
CALEDONIA - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sent the Parker family a letter saying the water coming out of their well is not safe for people to drink.
"Somebody should be held responsible for it," Ken Parker told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.
About two dozen residents got similar letters about their private wells.
Not far from the Parkers, Frank and Anne Michna have a stunning Lake Michigan view. Their land has been in their family for more than a century. But, they too live near the Oak Creek power plant and they too were told by the DNR that their well water is contaminated.
"It scares me everyday," Anne Michna said.
The DNR took extensive samples late last fall. It was the beginning of a yet-to-be-completed investigation into where the contamination is coming from. At the Michna home, the agency found high levels of boron. The Michnas have been told boron can cause fertility problems.
"I have 13-year-old girls," Anne Michna said. "I worry every day, are they going to have fertility problems? Will they ever get a cancer?"
At the Parker home, tests revealed elevated levels of molybdenum. A fact sheet provided by the state says molybdenum can lead to hallucinations, stomach sickness, kidney disorders and joint pain.
The Wisconsin Sierra Club blasted We Energies six months ago when one of its huge landfills collapsed into Lake Michigan. When it comes to well water, that same group says problems often arise near power plants.
"It's a shame that they need to be drinking bottled water. We all should have clean, safe drinking water," said the Sierra Club's Jennifer Feyerherm.
DNR hydrogeologist Joe Lourigan said the molybdenum could be naturally high in the area. The agency is look at the We Energies plant as a possible source of the contamination. They are also looking at an old landfill which, by federal standards, is filled with hazardous chemical waste and has been designated as EPA Superfund site.
Each month, Culligan delivers bottled water to the Michnas. We Energies is actually paying for that water. But, We Energies said that is not an acknowledgment that its plant is polluting the water.
"The result that we got from our firm that we had hired to do an analysis was there are two key factors that point to it not being from our facilities," said We Energies spokesperson Brian Manthey.
We Energies paid for a study that found the groundwater flows away from the neighborhoods with the problems. Manthey said that the study also found molybdenum levels get higher deeper into the ground and farther away from the plant, which the company contends is evidence that its plant is not the source.
Residents are not convinced.
"We're sitting here, losing our property values. We can't drink our water. It puts us in a very bad situation," Ken Parker said.
The Michnas believe giving in would be giving up on their family's history.
"Our lives are deeply rooted here and it would be hard to just pick up and go somewhere else," Frank Michna said.
The DNR expects test results back from its water samples in May. The agency plans to release its findings late summer.
If you are interested in testing the water in your own well, call the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene in Madison at (800) 442-4618. You should request a test kit for private well metals. You can ask for a molybdenum test to be included in the kit. There will be a fee. There is a fee schedule posted on their website. Some private labs may also be able to test for molybdenum. There is a list of certified laboratories on the department's website.