Water faucet

Tests of the village of Bruce two water wells were approved to help village trustees determine how to proceed with the acutely high level of manganese in the water supply.

During a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, about 30 residents attended to hear a plan on how to proceed in correcting the village’s water problem. Notices were posted just two weeks earlier following the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ findings that the village’s water was unsafe to drink.

The decision was to take Well #3 offline due to the elevated levels of manganese. On Nov. 10 and Nov. 25 Well #3 has 1,100 micrograms of manganese per liter. While in northern Wisconsin, manganese tends to be elevated, at the tested level the water is unsafe for drinking. 

On these same dates, Well #1 tested 500 and 520 micrograms of manganese per liter. At these levels, the water is considered unsafe for infants and those over 50 years of age and safe for those within that range.

Turning Well #3 off would make the water safe for most people.

Bruce Fire Chief Jim Locke said his concerns with turning Well #3 off are the icy road in the winter and the timeframe for turning the well back online in the event of a fire. Alone, Well #1 is not strong enough to meet the needs of a large structure fire. Having Well #3 off during the summer is less critical, according to Locke.

Locke requested to allow two or three people to have keys and training to turn Well #3 on and off in the event of a fire. Public Works Director Darlene Wundrow is currently the only person with this access and it would be important in the event of a fire to ensure quick action can be taken.

Depending on what the preliminary well tests determine the fix could be as short at a few months or several years.

“Hopefully this is a short term issue, it can’t go on for 2-5 years with this,” said Locke.

In the event of a fire, Well #3 would be turned on and residents would not be able to drink village water for seven days. The seven days would allow time for the heightened levels of manganese to be flushed from the system.

“We will get a game plan together on how to expedite this,” said Village of Bruce President Shane Trott.

Morgan and Parmley Engineer Larry Gotham said the manganese in the water is naturally occurring. In 1990 water samples from Well #3 were at acute levels and therefore has a history of this problem. In 1990, the well and aquifer developed a bio-film, or biological layer, that caused the manganese to become insoluble.

In 1982 Well #1 was treated. The water chemistry is different in each well.

When soluble manganese transitions to being insoluble, black particles can be seen in the water, according to Gotham. 

Thirty years ago the village treated the well by acidizing the well, then shocking it with chlorine. The problem corrected itself, with the treatment, within three months. The well was last cleaned and overhauled four years ago, said Gotham. 

“I am extremely confident that treating the well will work,” said Gotham in speaking of the current water crisis. A ballpark estimate to treat both wells is approximately $5,000, according to Gotham.

The village will determine a course of action after the test results are returned. It will take approximately 30 days for the water results to return. A new well or other larger fix could result in a timeline of 2023 before completion, according to Gotham.

“Testing will hopefully give us direction on how to fix the well,” said Trott.

Trustees unanimously approved turning Well #3 off until the problem can be corrected.

Donations of water bottles have been generously donated to the Village of Bruce. However, are a longer term solution until the well is corrected, trustees unanimously approved the installation of a Culligan water filter in the Village Hall. 

The cost to lease, on a month to month basis, and installation for a Culligan water filtration system is $1,065 and approximately $70 monthly for maintenance. The State of Wisconsin would also require the filtration system to be tested monthly for manganese and bacteria. 

Volunteers to help manage the water filtration system are being sought. For those interested, contact Village Hall. Access to the system will be during Village of Hall hours, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday-Friday and Tuesdays and Thursdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon. Volunteers are needed for times outside regular Village Hall hours.

The Rusk County Meals on Wheels program has also volunteered to distribute water to those who participate in the program.

Trustees would also like to set up a One Call system to notify village residents of changes to the water or other issues. They will return to the discussion after more information is gathered on the cost of the system.

Until then, Bruce School District Administrator Pat Sturzl volunteered allowing the village to use the school’s marquee for posting notices. Trustees approved this as another way to notify residents.

Trustees also approved the $550 purchase of a manganese meter and regents to allow Wundrow to test the manganese levels in the water.

The next Village of Bruce board meeting will be held 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 4.

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