Well 19 - Iron, Manganese & Radium Treatment

Last Updated: 03/07/2018

Well 19 exterior

Purpose: Improve water quality by removing iron, manganese and radium from the source water

Project Budget: $5 million

Anticipated construction start date: Spring, 2020  Anticipated completion date: Summer, 2021

Latest News

The project is currently in the planning and pre-design phase. A pilot testing plan has been approved by the DNR. On-site pilot testing of alternative treatment systems is expected to begin in the spring of 2018.

About the Project

Located on UW Madison property near the Eagle Heights student housing complex, Well 19 pumps 500 to 700 million gallons of water a year to the University and surrounding neighborhoods. It also supplies water for residents of Shorewood Hills.The well facility was built in 1974 and includes a 3-million gallon buried reservoir. 

This project focuses on the removal of three naturally-occuring contaminants: iron, manganese and radium. Iron and manganese are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be “secondary” contaminants and are regulated for aesthetic considerations, such as taste and color. Radium is a “primary” contaminant and is regulated to protect human health.

While the water from Well 19 has never been in violation of federal health standards, Madison Water Utility has measured radium levels above the federal maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) twice since 2011: 
July 2011 - 5.8 pCi/L, Feb. 2015 - 5.3 pCi/L

The MCL for radium is meant to ensure the safety of water over a lifetime of consumption. Results would have to be consistently above 5 pCi/L for at least a year of quarterly samples in order for the water to be considered in violation of federal health standards. Over the past three years, combined radium levels at Well 19 have ranged from 3.4 to 4.9 pCi/L. Find out more about recent water quality testing at Well 19 in the Well 19 Testing Report.

Project Timeline

Pilot Testing: 2018
On-site, small-scale testing of several different treatment systems to confirm that water quality objectives are met and determine the most cost-effective treatment system.

Conceptual Design: 2018
Development of three treatment alternatives for consideration for final design

Final Design: 2019
Preparation of construction drawings and specifications of the approved design concept for bidding

Bidding: 2019
Competitive bidding of the project through the City of Madison Board of Public Works and contract award

Construction and Construction Administration: 2020-2021

Testing, Startup and Commissioning: tbd
Verification of proper system function and achievement of treatment goals


Q: How will the quality of my water be improved after the project?

A: You can expect fewer instances of orange or brown tinted water. The minerals that cause this discoloration will be removed by the treatment process. In addition, you may experience better-tasting water since the amount of metals in the water will be reduced.

Q: Should I be concerned about the current levels of radium in my water?

A: No. Long-term, chronic exposure to radium above the MCL may increase health risks. However, drinking water standards are established to protect sensitive populations and they contain a margin of safety to account for population variability and uncertainty associated with health studies. Our enhanced monitoring at Well 19 shows that the radium level has been stable for several years.

Q: How will the project change the look of the facility?

A: The treatment system will mostly likely consist of a number of large tanks and associated piping which may be housed in an addition to the existing building or in a separate structure. Whether an addition or a new building, the design will architecturally complement the existing building. Existing mature trees and other landscaping will preserved to the extent possible. The existing building footprint is approximately 2500 square feet; the new building or addition will approximately double that area.

Q: How will the project affect traffic in the neighborhood? What about other construction impacts?

A: Lake Mendota Drive will remain open in both directions although there may be occasional short duration closures to allow for the delivery of materials and equipment. There will be more than usual traffic in and out of the site during construction of the project. Expect typical construction-related noise during allowable construction hours of 7am to 7pm Monday through Saturday and 10am to 7pm Sunday during active construction.

Q: Will I experience water shut-offs or service interruptions due to this project?

A: Though the facility may be shut down for short periods, there are no planned disruptions to service.

Past Meetings/ Additional Information

April 25, 2017 - Water Utility Board Meeting 
The Water Utility Board gave approval for MWU staff to move forward with the project by issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire an engineering consulting firm to assist with design and construction of a treatment system; the RFP was issued in July.

September, 2017 - Consulting Firm Selected
MWU staff recommended hiring Strand Associates.

October 9, 2017 - Preliminary Meeting
MWU and UW Facilities Planning & Management staff met to discuss coordination and preliminary project issues