Wisconsin DNR identifies dangerous levels of manganese in several western Wisconsin water systems

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 9:32 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Several western Wisconsin communities are warning their residents about dangerous levels of manganese found in the water system including the Village of Bruce, Balsam Lake and most recently, Dallas.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been focusing its efforts on identifying water systems in the state that are contaminated by the chemical element. The effort is based on the Environmental Protection Agency conducting special monitoring across the nation.

“Because the EPA wasn’t testing all water systems we searched through our information and decided to ask some places for samples of manganese where we thought there would be a concern,” says Steven Elmore, Bureau Director for the Division of Environmental Management at the Wisconsin DNR.

Elmore says manganese is naturally occurring and is common in northern Wisconsin.

“We knew that manganese had potential to be a concern in Wisconsin because of it being found in the rocks in the ground that we get our water from,” he says.

Consuming high levels of manganese can cause issues to a person’s nervous system among other health issues, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Data from the Village of Bruce showed levels of manganese in its water system as high as 1,100 micrograms per liter in testing completed in November. In early December all residents were advised to stop drinking tap water.

Testing in Balsam Lake’s wells in November revealed levels of manganese as high as 772 micrograms per liter. Testing of the well in Dallas earlier this month showed about 670 micrograms per liter of manganese. In those communities, an advisory is issued to infants younger than six months and people over the age of 50.

The last testing happened in those communities in 2017 when levels of manganese were slightly lower.

According to the DNR levels of manganese higher than 300 micrograms per liter pose an immediate risk to infants younger than six months and people over the age of 50 while levels higher than 1000 micrograms per liter pose an immediate risk to everyone.

The DNR says it is important to heed these warnings.

“We do not know when exactly this started but we do know this information now and we should take appropriate actions to protect ourselves from these levels of manganese,” Elmore says.

Elmore says testing for manganese is ongoing and it is possible to see this issue pop up in other towns in the near future. Now it is up to the communities to find solutions from drilling new wells to installing filtration systems.

To learn more about manganese, click here.

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