UW-Milwaukee group testing Lake Winnebago water quality

CREATED Aug. 12, 2013

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  • Drinking Water Testing Video by wtmj.com

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OSHKOSH - The quality of your drinking water is in question if it comes from Lake Winnebago.  A group from UW-Milwaukee is testing the lake water to see if it contains hidden toxins.

Lake Winnebago is the source of drinking water for more than 200,000 people in Appleton, Oshkosh, Neenah and Menasha.  It's also known for having algae blooms this time of year, which may be spreading harmful bacteria into your faucet.

John Hernandez pulls water samples from Lake Winnebago out of a testing buoy.

"We have a sampler on the buoy that pulls water samples every six hours," said Hernandez.

He is one of the graduate students from UW-Milwaukee conducting this research and says this is the perfect lake to test.

"It's Wisconsin's largest inland water body and many communities around the lake will use this for their drinking water," said Hernandez.

The UW-Milwaukee group has been taking samples from the Menasha water filtration plant as well.  They're looking for blue-green algae toxins that might slip through the filtration process into your drinking water.

"Treating the algae toxins is not something we have the capability to do and it's a pretty complicated test," said Menasha Water Plant Supervisor, Tim Gosz.

Gosz says Menasha's water does undergo vigorous tests and it meets all state regulations, but research like this matters.

"It's definitely important because it concerns public heath," said Gosz.

The research is being funded by a $750,000 grand from the National Institution of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Science Foundation. It's money Hernandez and his team plan to put to good use as they continue to test the water until the end of summer, hoping to find better ways to filter it.

The team is still collecting results from the buoy, as of right now they do not know for certain if toxins are making it into the drinking water. They say the testing is in its very early stages and they should know more in the upcoming weeks.