Growing groundwater concerns draws crowd
By Rebecca Cardenas, WSAW-TV (Channel 7)

SARATOGA, Wis. (WSAW)-- Four Democratic legislators hosted a listening session in the Town of Saratoga Thursday to discuss the ongoing concerns relating to groundwater in the region and state.


Known as the Central Sands region, its residents are increasingly concerned with the quality and quantity of their groundwater. Residents from each of the eight impacted Wisconsin counties stress how the water's worsening condition creates an unfit living situation at Thusrday's listening session.


"Two dogs died on Lake Camelot, on Manchester Court, which was right near our home," Town of Saratoga resident Rhonda Carrell said, addressing the legislators, "and I ended up being paralyzed."


Carrell has found herself in hot water in every place she's lived in the Central Sands region.


"Having to learn to walk all over again and use my hands, I was out of business for a while," she recalled. "There's a direct correlation between ground water and surface water, and we have to be responsible for it."


Central Sands has the highest percentage of high capacity wells in the state. Residents argue those are responsible for groundwater contamination and are calling for a comprehensive plan.


"High [capacity] users may own the casing, the piping, of the well, but they don't own the water," Susan Wurzer, a resident of Amherst, said.


"I don't think it's too much to ask of them not to poison our water or dry up our wells," Nekoosa resident Rick Potter added.


Local legislators Sen. Julie Lassa and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) said they hear the concerns.


"Water is a basic right. We deserve to have clean water, we deserve to have safe water,we deserve to have enough water," Shankland said.


Lassa said the discussion began in 2005, but in order for change, discussions must flow from all directions.


"I'm advocating for all the stakeholders to be at the table," she explained. "So that they all have a stake in being part of a solution to our groundwater management issues here in Wisconsin."


Lassa represents the Town of Saratoga and both she and Shankland represent Portage County, which leads the state in high-capacity well groundwater withdrawals, according to a news release. Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) and Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) authored the Water Sustainability Act, which would create a sustainable mechanism for managing the state's water resources.


The DNR will hold a meeting at UW-Stevens Point Tuesday, April 12, addressing an optimizing plan.