DNR official: Jackson water may be unusable for a decade or more

JACKSON -- Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources hosted a public information meeting Thursday, September 20th regarding the cleanup of a fuel spill in Jackson. The goal of Thursday night's meeting was to brainstorm for a long-term plan for moving forward following the gas leak.

The July 17th gasoline pipeline burst sent 22,000 gallons of fuel into the soil.

West Shore Pipe Line Company repaired the gas line, and then tested private wells -- where officials found water samples containing levels of benzene higher than federal standards. 

The Department of Natural Resources then issued a "Flush-Only Advisory" for some residents in the spill area.  The company put those residents up in hotel rooms and issued bottled water.

Then, the company found groundwater runoff from unsafe drinking water areas flowing away from the leak area, outside the designated restriction areas as established by the DNR. The company then installed and tested an "interim groundwater remediation system."

A mobile groundwater cleanup plant was set up in a backyard adjacent to the spill site. Three blue barrels represent the three-part system -- one that cleanses and breaks apart the mixture of water and gasoline into liquid and gas states. It is then filtered and dispensed into a drainage ditch -- a tributary of Cedar Creek.

For the first time Thursday night, DNR officials discussed the contaminated water and its potential ill-affects to health.

"I don't see that water being usable for at least a decade, if not longer," Steve Ales with the Wisconsin DNR said.

The focus now is on finding a safe long-term drinking supply, as contamination from the gasoline leak has forced the community to consider alternatives. Five options are permitted by the DNR, including using the nearby Village of Jackson system, establishing a public Town of Jackson sanitary district, replacing the existing private wells with deeper ones, creating a privately owned water supply system, or a combination of these approaches.

State officials aren't recommending any one solution over another, but would like a decision as quickly as possible.

"The town board will have a special meeting for all the town residents to voice their opinions on all these alternatives," Town of Jackson Chairman Raymond Heidtke said.

Most Jackson residents who attended Thursday night's meeting said most of what was presented seemed like things they've heard before. They said they're frustrated, but still listening.

West Shore Pipe Line Company is paying for the cleanup, but who will pay for the long-term water supply solution was not addressed at Thursday's meeting.

West Shore Pipe Line Company opened a claims center for residents affected by the pipeline leak in Jackson. Claims can be made at the center — which has been set up at the Comfort Inn at W227 N16890 Tillie Lake Court in Jackson. The center will be open daily from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Affected residents can also call the claims hotline at 866-837-5016. Operators will also be available from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily.

Anyone who filed will be contacted by an adjuster, who will go through each claim.

The claims center and hotline will help residents with:

    Residents within the Wisconsin DNR’s Drinking Water Advisory area may also obtain bottled water directly from the claims center.

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