I-Team

Study: We Energies plant may be responsible for water contamination

CREATED Jan 24, 2013

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CALEDONIA - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources just released a much-anticipated report about contaminated drinking water in Southeast Wisconsin.

The report says that We Energies may be responsible for contaminating residential wells.

The water is so contaminated near the Oak Creek Power Plant that dozens of residents have been drinking bottled water for years. In the new report the DNR says We Energies may be to blame, but the results are inconclusive.

“I was hoping they'd be able to pinpoint the origin," said Ken Parker, a Caledonia resident.

Parker lives near the Oak Creek Power Plant and is disappointed with the results of a study on his drinking water.

“All this time and all this money that we've spent on all these results haven't really gotten us any further," said Parker.

More than 40 private wells are contaminated with a metal called molybdenum. Too much may lead to hallucinations, stomach sickness, kidney disorders and joint pain. The DNR has been searching for the source for years. But what is the result of the study?

"Inconclusive,” said Eric Nitschke, the DNR regional director. “The result of the study is that we are not able to determine the source of the elevated levels of molybdenum."

The DNR suspected mulitple coal ash landfills at the We Energies plant. One of those landfills collapsed in 2011.

"Coal ash is known to be a source of molybdenum," said Nitschke, which is the reason they suspected the plant in the first place.

But the DNR and We Energies both point to evidence that molybdenum may be naturally in the ground.

"I think what the residents of the area, the DNR and certainly We Energies all would like to see is one final, definitive firm statement where that's coming from," said Brian Manthey with We Energies.

But Ken Parker fears he may never get an answer.

"[There is] still not any good answers for us out here," he said.

The DNR is promising more tests, but will not provide a timeline for when they aim to have a more answers.

We Energies says it's doing everything possible to prevent coal ash toxins from seeping into the ground.