MWU sets aside funds to study road salt issue at west side well

Friday, July 14, 2017 - 8:37am

Madison Water Utility is setting aside $125,000 in its 2018 operating budget for further study of a municipal drinking water well that’s becoming contaminated with road salt. The budget was submitted yesterday to city officials for approval.

Well 14 on University Ave. and Flambeau Rd. is a major supply point for that part of the city, pumping 750 million gallons of water a year to homes and businesses along the University Avenue corridor. But the well’s water has been showing increasing amounts of sodium and chloride, the chemicals that make up salt. While it’s not a health threat for most people, road salt in the water can have a big impact on taste. Madison Water Utility expects that levels will surpass the EPA-recommended threshold for taste in the next 12 to 15 years.

“We’re going to resolve the problem,” says Joe Grande, water quality manager for the utility. “It may be wellhead treatment, it may be well reconstruction, it may be abandoning the site. I’m confident we’ll come up with a solution. It’s just going to be a costly one. “

The funds will be used to help Madison Water Utility study the cost and feasibility of each of those options and perhaps others. Grande stresses it could be five to ten years before a long-term solution is built and in place. And he says the impact of road salt is being felt far beyond Well 14.

“This is a city-wide issue. Road salt is contaminating our lakes and groundwater. Well 14 is an indicator of things to come. It’s the first well that’s facing this kind of crisis. Others will follow suit.”

The City of Madison will be launching a voluntary winter salt certification program this fall aimed at teaching contractors how to reduce salt use while maintaining safety. Salt spread on private parking lots, sidewalks and driveways makes up about half of the total winter salt use in the city.


Water Utility