Hoggie Doggies restaurant owner Steven Pletta briefed Oneida County's public works committee on his water problems last week.
Since February, the Woodruff businessman and yearly resident, has been in conversation with area officials about high levels of sodium and chloride in his water supply. Due to being near an intersection of two roads (County Route J and State Highway 47) with a grade higher than his property, Pletta believes road salt runoff is seeping into his land.
"Chloride is the main ingredient in road salt, which is soluble and highly mobile in water," he told the committee. "My well was constructed in 1993. After the well was established, the road near me was rebuilt. I don't know if a well survey was done when the road work was finished at the time, but what is happening is the road is causing the water runoff to move west to southwest. Anyone who goes to the intersection, you can see runoff was designed to go in the direction of my well, it is obvious by the eye."
According to documents in Pletta's presentation, experts from the University of Wisconsin's Steven's Point campus looked at his well and found more than 500 milligrams per liter of sodium and over 900 of chloride respectively.
Under federal guidelines, the Environmental Protection Agency defines anything with more than 250 milligrams as a secondary drinking water standard. This means, while the current well at Hoggie Doggies does not pose an immediate health risk in the short term, the water will taste bad, corrode metal and affect the money Pletta makes during his months of operation.
"It is not necessairily a health risk unless you're living there and consuming the water on a regular basis (Pletta lives above the establishment)," he said. "In the fall, I noticed a drastic change in my water. A white film started to develop on my stainless steel and I didn't have this all through the summer. For me, the biggest effect on my business will be on my fountain soda. This water will affect the revenue I generate and my income long term."
Though Pletta called for a new well near the end of his presentation, the committee asked questions relating to the issue.
"Did the previous owners have any problems?" Oneida County Solid Waste supervisor Lisa Jolin asked.
"They were snowbirds," Pletta explained. "In the winter months, it was just left idle and snow piled up. This is not something generally on people's radar. I had to make special requests to look for chlorides and sodium."
"So, what did the state have to say about Highway 47?" committee member Sonny Paszak inquired.
"Well, I haven't talked to the state yet. This is where I am starting," Pletta replied. "I know you're instructed by the state to do what is recommended to keep the roads safe. I am not sure where responsibility lies."
From there, the committee went into closed session and deliberated on what to do regarding Pletta's issue. Ultimately, the committee took no action and directed county corporate counsel to discuss the issue further with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. According to committee chairman Robb Jensen, it will take some time to find an answer to the problem.
"I think Steve did a good job of presenting the history of the situation and what he believes is casing the problem with his well," he said. "The human part of me wants to see his problem resolved before he opens in April. I feel bad for him, but I would be really surprised if we bring a resolution to this by then."
Evan J. Pretzer may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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