Groundwater quality a focus for Gov. Evers and local health officials

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- During Governor Tony Evers' inaugural budget address, one area of focus for the new governor was on water quality in the state.

"This is an issue not only around health but it's an issue around our culture as a state. We inherited this water in a different condition than it is today and we have to get back to that condition going forward," said Evers during a visit to La Crosse on March 1.

This week, local health departments around the nation are celebrating Groundwater Awareness Week.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, approximately two-thirds of people in Wisconsin get their drinking water from groundwater.

Groundwater comes from rain or snow and is extracted by wells.

"Municipal water or city water is tested regularly, however private water is not. So it is up to the homeowner to go out and get their well tested," says La Crosse County Health Educator Casey Mrozek. "You cannot see, taste or smell contaminants so that's why it's critical to go in and get your water tested."

The biggest contaminant to groundwater is nitrate and bacteria.

Drinking contaminated water can be related to certain cancers, birth defects and E. coli.

"Nitrate is naturally occurring in the water, but there are ways that kind of contribute to more of a nitrate issue such as fertilizer. I know it's hard to think about fertilizer right now with all the snow," said Mrozek.

In his budget, Evers has proposed state officials could borrow $70 million dollars.

That money would go towards combating water pollution and replacing lead pipes.

"We have to have clean drinking water, we have to have good water to recreate in and we have to make sure that we control pollution and make sure that it's not invading our aquifers and people are drinking out of polluted wells," said Evers.

Those interested in having their private wells tested can bring a water sample to their local health department.