This week, thousands of golf fans, volunteers, officials, workers, members of the media, and, of course, golfers will arrive for the US Open at Erin Hills, Wisconsin, swelling the little village’s population to more than 10 times the norm. Playing host to that many people is no small challenge. On and off the course, preparations have been ongoing for months now. One familiar addition to the golf course will be the presence of VIQUA partner Event Water Solutions, manning drinking water re-fill stations to help ensure safe hydration for all.
Featuring ultraviolet disinfection (UV) as part of the water treatment for these portable stations is always important, but even more so in this area of Wisconsin, where karst bedrock makes groundwater that much more vulnerable to contamination.* Essentially, due to its fractured nature, water moves through this bedrock much more quickly, so any contamination on the surface can quickly infiltrate the groundwater.
There are more than 15,000 households in Washington county, where the US Open is being played, that are served by private wells, and through the years, 20-25% of those wells that were tested were, in fact, positive for bacteria, according to data provided by the University of Wisconsin Extension.
That number, however, is dwarfed by the rate of contamination recently found in a study of private wells conducted in Kewaunee County, where up to 60% of sampled wells contained a wide array of fecal pathogens including Cryptosporidium, rotavirus, E. Coli, and even Salmonella. These microbes were determined to be of both bovine and human origin, which means the well water is being contaminated not only by run off from Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs)but also from home septic systems in the area.
Viral contamination is not limited to private water supplies. A separate study from 2012 sampled water from 14 Wisconsin communities that do not disinfect their groundwater, and found 24% of the samples were contaminated with human viruses. While these small municipalities are operating within government regulations, the communities they serve are more at risk of waterborne illness.
Incidents of sickness caused by contaminated drinking water are more likely to occur following periods of heavy rain, because contaminated water from leaky sewers, septic tanks, and runoff from roads and fields can get into the aquifer. A more recent study identified that children drinking water from untreated systems had a 40% greater chance of getting sick if there had been an inch of rain in the previous week. With heavy rain, approaching 5 inches or more in the prior week, the risk of children’s illnesses was 6 times higher.
One of the apparent reasons for not treating ground water is that residents object to the use of chemicals and don’t care for the taste of chlorine in their water. And understandably so. That being said, there is still an option to protect home water supplies with no impact to the taste or smell of the water. Installing a whole home UV water treatment system is a simple fix that can be used by homeowners, whether they’re on municipal water or a private well. Talk to a water treatment dealer in your local area to identify the right home water treatment system for you.
*Water treatment used in the water bottle re-fill stations is added protection for event attendees. The most recently available data (EPA SDWIS) indicates all water supplies affiliated with Erin Hills GCC are in compliance.