Archive for May, 2010

Madison Water Utility to Deliver Brown Water to Eastside Taps this Summer

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Tuesday evening, 5/25/2010, the Water Utility Board will be meeting:

4:30 PM WATER UTILITY BOARD 119 E. OLIN AVE. ROOMS A & B (pdf of agenda here)

Though the topic is not on the agenda, eastsiders are concerned about the Utility’s plans to open the spigot on Well 8 this summer.

This is the well that sits atop the Olbrich sledding hill. It serves the near east side (Atwood & environs). It has:

a) high manganese levels (the element that causes dirty brown water around here), and,

b) high bacteria counts (given the drawdown of the aquifer, the aquifer is now likely supplied by lakewater rather than the natural order of things, aquifer-feeding-into-lake).

Given the routine summertime drawdown of our aquifer (generally caused by obsessions with green lawns in August), the Utility — spurred by the Fire Department — goes into desperation mode and opens this dirty well during peak-demand summer months.

Eastsiders are, shall we say, concerned. And rightly so. Several of our leading lights are submitting comment about the need for a better, safer policy with regard to our water supply.

The overarching point is: The Water Utility needs to follow the sustainability, conservation path rather than the business-as-usual consumption-at-all-costs path.

Below are some of the emails constituting public comment submissions on the idea of adding such a dangerous water source to our drinking water.


From fae dremock

Sent : Saturday, May 22, 2010 8:58 PM

To : Larson, Alan

Subject : Well 8: keep it offline

Hi, Al–

Well 8 has long been pumping water into taps used for drinking water by older residents, folks with heart conditions, pregnant women, and your children.

All of those groups are considered at risk at the high levels of manganese and iron reported in Well 8 water– which in fact led to citizen concern and to utility investigation into the need for filtration of Well 8.

The high iron levels are also correlated (perhaps also causative) of increased bacterial growth in the well.

The Madison water utility has already reported that Well 8 NEEDS filtration, and the well was turned off to avoid using that well’s water as drinking water.

If we had an adequate summer conservation program in place and well disseminated in the neighborhoods in that pressure zone, the Well would not need to be turned back on. We even have ways of doing this outlined in the utility’s standard operating procedure for citizen process– which was approved by the common council.

We should NOT being turning Well 8 back on– in its current unfiltered state. And the utility doesn’t need the added publicity of citizen blowback or independent epidemiological studies of high manganese and high iron health effects on at-risk populations in Madison, whether seniors or young children or pregnant mothers.

Either filter Well 8, or keep it shut down.

Please include this email under Public Comment on the May 25 Water Utility Board Agenda–in case I am unable to attend the May 25 Board meeting in person.


Fae Dremock

Former member of the citizen water utility working group for Well 3 and a member of the citizen committee that worked with the water utility to create the SOP on citizen process.

Also, press card-carrying member of the National Science Writers Association.


From: Steven Klafka

Subject: City Well 8 Operating Schedule for 2010

To : “Larson, Alan”

Date : Thursday, May 20, 2010, 3:44 PM

Al Larson,

Probably because of my involvement on the Well 8 citizens advisory committee, I have seen recent emails regarding the operation of Well 8 this summer beginning in late June. As has been suggested, I think the Water Utility should seriously consider not operating Well 8 this summer, and not until a new filtration system is installed at Well 8 or in combination with other wells on the eastside.

As shown in the attachment to the January 2009 project scoping document, Well 8 iron levels are several times the taste threshold and twice the level at which laundry and plumbing staining occurs. Manganese levels are at the taste threshold, and exceed levels where it can coat water pipes and discolor water. Periodic variations above the average levels reported in the scoping document would be more noticeable. The manganese levels are well below the EPA lifetime health advisory value, but the potential for health effects merits more serious consideration of our options.

The neighborhood residents around Well 8 has shown to be great environmental advocates. If the water utility suggested that neighbors reduce excessive summertime water usage so Well 8 is not required, I think they will respond positively.

Thanks for considering my comments.

Steve Klafka

508 Elmside Boulevard

Madison, WI 53704

(608) 249-0231


Subject : Re: Please filter or keep Well 8 turned off this summer

Date : Thu, 20 May 2010 16:31:33 -0500

From : Betty Chewning

Organization : University of Wisconsin – Madison

To: Grande, Joseph , Lawrence Lundy

Mr Grande:

Thank you for sharing my comments at the Water Board meeting.  Could you share these as well?

It looks like you intend to keep Well 8 with its elevated iron and manganese levels going this summer.  You didn’t say whether you would filter it. My neighbors and I would like to know if you are going to do this.

I’m very interested in moving forward a sustainability approach to water management. City government is constantly faced with tradeoffs, which I understand having been a member of the Madison Park Commission for the past 9 years. I don’t mean to oversimplify your challenge, but my question is why not work much more on the conservation side of the question rather than assuming you need to keep #8 in service?  Let’s work together to encourage a sustainable mode of water use by Madison’s fine residents and industryl/ businesses?  We (your agency and those of us interested in sustainability ) can ask people/ business to use less.  The sustainable Atwood effort is trying to think about this issue. For example, with city or university help we or the city could establish per capita goals.  Through their water bills we could give people feedback of whether they are below, above, or at average use on their bills? ( I have a prius and the feedback on my second by second mileage has been powerful in changing my driving behavior to conserve gas).   This could be augmented with public education on formulas that each household could use to determine their own goal based on number of people in the household.  People could be taught to read their own meters and given shared equipment for doing that if needed. How hard would it be to put up on the City Water Utility web the list of behaviors that can help households, businesses and industry conserve water in the summer ( in addition to the formulaes). We use a sustain dane rain barrel to collect water for all of our plants in the summer for example.What are the resources such as this that can build the city’s capacity to conserve water. Not keeping your water running when brushing your teeth is a small start that Dr.Gilbert White, a prominent international water management expert from Univ. of Chicago,  advocated years ago just to raise consciousness that water is a scarce commodity.  The use of gray water certainly deserves discussion. Sounds like a grad student or internship project to me.  What do you think?

The translation of what is known both about human behavior and sustainable water practice and behavior is very exciting. What do you think about engaging the community in a full fledged public, industry and business education campaign on priority behaviors we can engage in to minimize our water use in Madison?  I would be happy as well as many others to help you think about it. This could be an exciting time rather than the contentious time that I”m afraid has marked well water discussions in the past. Just know that you are not alone if you choose to move in the direction of conservation and sustainability.

By the way, don’t misunderstand my point re. the serious health issues concentrated on my block. We (you and I) are all being exposed to numerous small chemical risks.  There is actually little done to estimate the interactive effects of all these small risks.  I simply don’t want my family to have another small exposure when there is no need for it.  And that is the real issue here.  If sustainability, which should happen anyway, were a central theme of madison’s policy we wouldn’t need for any elevated levels from well #8.  I sincerely and respectfully ask for your leadership on this.

Betty Chewning

***[The following message is from Water Utility a staffer]

Grande, Joseph wrote:

Thank you, Ms. Chewning, for your message regarding the planned operation of Well 8 later this year.  I have requested that your message be entered during the public comment period at next Tuesday’s Water Board meeting.

A filter at Well 8, or other Madison wells, would improve the aesthetic quality of the water and reduce the staining of clothes, shower curtains, and plumbing fixtures.  Comprehensive testing at the residential tap has shown that, when Well 8 operates, iron and manganese levels are indeed above the aesthetic threshold (i.e. the national secondary drinking water level) but well below levels deemed potentially unhealthy.  The primary problem with groundwater minerals like calcium (hardness), iron, and manganese is that they produce visible residues that are a nuisance.  Iron and manganese accumulate in water mains over time and periodically lead to discolored water at the tap.  The Water Utility already limits the operation of Well 8 to reduce the likelihood of discolored water at the residential tap.  Our flushing program further helps to lessen the chance of colored water by removing the mineral sediment before it can become a problem.

We plan to operate the well during the summer months (late June through early September) when water demands are higher due to outdoor water use.  Last year the well pumped 43 million gallons or about 1 million gallons per day and we anticipate similar operations this year. Seasonal wells, including Well 8, are important supply points to meet often unpredictable summer water demand.  They also serve as important backup supply during system problems (power outage, unplanned maintenance need, etc.) or major fire that could require additional supply.  As in previous years, we will monitor manganese and iron levels at the residential tap during the time when the well operates.  Test results from 2007-2009 are available on our website,

The Water Utility is committed to improving water quality throughout the water system and particularly at Well 8.  A Citizen Advisory Panel (CAP) was formed last year to allow citizen input into how the water quality concerns at Well 8 are addressed.  In addition, a consultant was recently hired to evaluate a host of treatment and operation alternatives not only for Well 8 but the entire near eastside.  The study should be completed by next summer, at which point a preferred alternative will be selected.  I encourage you to contact Al Larson (copied on this message) to become part of the CAP so that your concerns and preferences are incorporated into the planning process for improved water quality.

Finally, I am saddened to hear about the coincidental adverse health of several neighbors.  However, to my knowledge, the minerals impurities and the levels typically found in water pumped from Well 8 are not associated with these specific health conditions.  I believe Public Health Madison Dane County can more appropriately address your health-related concerns.  Jeff Lafferty (242-6491) is a good resource at Public Health.

Please feel free to contact me directly (266-4654) if you have any other water quality questions.


Joseph Grande

Water Quality Manager

Madison Water Utility



From : Foxcroft, Melanie A – DHS

Sent : Monday, May 24, 2010 3:32 PM

Subject : PUBLIC COMMENT for May 25 Board Agenda

To : Greg Harrington Water Utility Board Chair

Please include my comment below under the PUBLIC COMMENT portion of the May 25 Board Agenda, thanks!

I request that the Madison Water Utility educate and support efforts by residents in the Well #8 area to conserve water this summer, including: collect “grey” water from their households to re-use on their gardens; plant more drought-resistant lawns and garden plants (including seed & plant suggestions); reduce watering lawns (be proud of your brown lawn!); collect rain water from downspouts to use on gardens; and similar measures.

While there may be a perception that Madison has water to waste, I contend that simple water re-use and conservation measures by individuals may have a major impact on water use, limiting drawdown from wells and aquifers that have challenged water quality/quantity including well #8.  The Madison Water utility can support this by including conservation information in their bills; by initiating a concerted public announcement/education campaign; by delivering downspout collection devices free to ALL households much as trash collection bins were delivered free; offering neighborhood workshops on how to connect the devices and conserve water; limiting certain types of fertilizers; and similar measures.

A little education and awareness can go a long way!

Keeping farm phosphorous out of our lakes is a Dane County issue, but we can start locally.  THANK YOU


Consider sending your own message about keeping our water clean to the folks at the Water Utility Board here:

ARobb – at –

CARPC Comes Through for Clean Water

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Capitol Area Regional Plan Commission really came through for clean water in Dane County. (See message below from Stefi Harris.)

Many thanks to Western Dane County Coalition for Smart Growth & Environment and CRANES for all of their advocacy & research on this. And it even looks like Falk even kind of stuck her neck out on the issue!


Last Thursday 5-13-10 in a vote of 6 to 6, with one abstention, CARPC denied the City of Verona urban service request for 265 acres near the Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek, southwest of the city. Verona intended to eventually develop over 1500 acres in that area. Verona’s case has a long history. It asked the old Regional Planning Commission about six years ago for an urban sewer extension. Verona was told then that it would be problematic because of the sensitivity of the area to any kind of development. They were advised to get a study of environmental resources and impact of development on those resources for the entire 1700 acres north/northeast of the confluence of the Sugar River and Badger Mill completed before they apply again. That study was completed sometime in early 2009. It was done by Montgomery Associates. Verona paid them $90,000 for the work. I read it and actually studied it. In many places the authors minimize the value and importance of natural resources. They only talk about how environmental impacts can be mitigated by stormwater control structures. They do not discuss what could be done in case of failure of such structures.  They also refuse to discuss impacts of municipal groundwater withdrawals on streams and wetlands as well as the impacts of development on coldwater aquatic communities such as live in the Sugar river and Badger Mill Creek.
Kathleen Falk and her assistant Topf Wells came to talk to the Commission on Thursday. ( A copy of her speech to CARPC is below.)
The deliberations lasted three hours. CRANES and ourselves worked on Verona, on and off, for about 10 months from our two ends. On the way in we knew we had four sure votes. We needed six to prevail. But that was the best we could do.  It was sheer suspense from the beginning to the end. We just got lucky. We could have very easily  lost if deliberations took a slightly different course. But that is another story.
I thought you might be interested.
All the best.
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Friday, May 14, 2010 9:20 AM
Subject: Memo below


The County Executive presented the testimony below to the CARPC Commission last night.

DATE:   May 13, 2010

TO:             Members, CARPC Commission

FROM:   Kathleen M. Falk
Dane County Executive

RE:             Verona USA Expansion Request
I respectfully ask that you vote to deny or substantially modify Verona’s request for an Urban Service Area expansion in the Upper Sugar and Badger Mill Creek corridors and watershed.

CARPC’s first and foremost responsibility is to protect water quality.  The more valuable, rare, and precious the resource, the higher degree of protection – that’s a common sense principle that just about everyone can agree to and CARPC should follow.

Other points of agreement are also, I think, clear.  The Upper Sugar River and Badger Mill Creek are valuable, rare, and precious resources.  Badger Mill Creek is a productive trout stream (and yes, I have fished it and even caught trout there) with wild and stocked populations of brown trout, located within a few minutes of rapidly growing neighborhoods in a major metropolitan area.  It also has great opportunities for further restoration and public use.  Public and private resources, lots of time and lots of money, have been devoted to Badger Mill Creek, (for example, dozens of volunteers from the Dane County Conservation League and Trout Unlimited, the extraordinary aeration system installed by MMSD, the inclusion of much of this area in the County’s Parks & Open Spaces Plan).  All of this has produced results.  As my staff reminded your staff, the latest information on Badger Mill that arrived in our offices in the last two weeks show that the trout population is now at a 15 year high.

In the extensive questioning concerning this request that occurred at the last meeting, it also became clear that we cannot be reasonably sure that the recommended conditions will adequately protect these resources.  I also believe this is one of only two USA expansions of all the many you have reviewed for which CARPC staff has not recommended approval.

The course CARPC should follow if it is to remain true to its mission is to deny this USA request or to reduce it in size so that it poses less of a threat to these resources.  As an example of the latter, CARPC could approve a much smaller USA in order to accommodate the Dean Clinic facility, which is in the area furthest from some of the most valuable resources. Either denial or partial denial would be the careful, cautious, conservative, conservation-oriented course these resources deserve from you.

You are a water quality planning and protection agency.  You should and must be champions of valuable water resources.  Approving this USA expansion will be a fatal mistake for CARPC.  In a very candid exchange with the Chair, whose hard work and good intentions I acknowledge and respect, he made it clear that he thought CARPC rejection of this request would cause the City of Verona to reject the FUDA process.  He, and I think in this discussion he represents the views of some other Commissioners, believes FUDA to be an absolutely voluntary process; that communities can wholly decide whether to participate or not.  Both beliefs are, however well intentioned, wrong and will make it impossible for CARPC to function.  With the precedent of this decision, should you grant this USA, any and every community will demand approval of USA expansions as a condition of participating in FUDA. What then is the point of FUDA?  Secondly, every community that formally voted to create CARPC knows that, by the charter approved by them and the Governor, FUDA is the process by which CARPC will pursue its water quality planning responsibilities and that those FUDA’s will form the basis of future USA recommendations.  That is why, by the way, there are eleven “shall’s” used in the charter’s description of CARPC and communities’ participation in FUDA.  Participation in FUDA’s can and should be a prerequisite, not a reward, for approval of USA requests.

No one else in this County but me has taxed citizens to preserve the RPC staff when that agency was destroyed and to then create the CARPC you are today a part of.  Specifically, I have levied almost $4 million in property taxes since 2004 for those purposes.  I did so willingly, publicly, and enthusiastically because I believed this agency and the FUDA process could be the means by which the protection of key natural resources and urban development could mutually proceed via a fair, well informed, and public process.  I have come to question my belief as I have witnessed CARPC approval of thousands of acres of new development approved in 27 USA’s with no discernable progress on FUDA.

CARPC has moved too far from its clearly stated mission.  The FUDA requirements and schedules are clearly stated in the charter document that was reviewed and approved by almost every Dane County municipal government.  That document laid out the priority area and committed CARPC to

    • “provide the [environmental] information described in Item a. to areas with the highest environmental sensitivity and growth pressure within three years of the date the CARPC commences operations.  g.  Communities shall submit their proposed Future Urban Development Area within 24 months of the date they receive the data from CARPC.  If a community does not meet this timeline, the CARPC shall not act on any individual USA expansion requests until the proposed plan is submitted.  CARPC may grant one six-month extension to this timeline.”  (ll. 170-179 of the charter)  (emphasis added)

CARPC is now in its fourth year of existence, with no FUDA’s created.

Approval of this USA will, in my judgment, ruin any prospect of FUDA succeeding.  At that point, County taxpayers are wasting their money ($700,000 a year on CARPC) on functions that can be handled by the DNR.  I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support CARPC if you make that unfortunate decision.

You have before you a rare, important, and difficult intersection of several issues joined in this USA decision:  the protection of some valuable public resources and the continuation of what could be a key planning process for our orderly, sustainable growth.  To have both, please vote to deny or modify this USA expansion.

Motor Primitives: 2010 MAMAs Best Hard Rock/Punk Band!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, May 10th, 2010

The Motor Primitives just received “BEST HARD ROCK/PUNK BAND OF 2010” at last nights Madison Area Music Awards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ed accepts award, commences to rip into the Wisconsin legislators (yes, including the Madison delegation) for shortchanging kids.

And backstage…..

Motor Primitives celebrate the award backstage....

My all-time favorite band, makin’ it to the big time!*


*Thanks everyone who voted–you made it so!

Gallery Night: My Pick: Larry Price @ Mermaid Cafe

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Gallery Night is tomorrow night, Friday!

My prime pick is Larry Price’s installation at Mermaid Cafe. I’m a huge fan of Larry and his art. He’s my go-to guy when I need a classy gift. Pam has loved every one of watercolors she has received, and they grace our walls nicely.

Being a geographer, I fell in love with Larry’s keen eye for urban landscapes. Vernacular architecture and commonplace streetscapes — typically of the eastside variety — are infused with new meaning, new perspectives and new life thanks to Larry’s artistic vision.

Much of his work is smaller in scale, but this installation will feature some large format works I haven’t seen yet. It should be fun. & interesting.

I’ll also likely be wandering up to the various galleries along Winnebago & Atwood and will likely end up at Alison Mader’s Artspace Twenty-Two Eleven (2211 Atwood Ave.), and, of course, finally at the Harmony.

Hope to see you there!

Below is Larry’s artist description:

Large, dynamic, acrylic, contemporary landscapes on canvas, ranging in size from 72″x 60″ to 36″x 48″.

I’ve been influenced by Wolf Kahn, one of America’s greatest abstract expressionist landscape painters, known for his unique use of color.

Gallery Night is Friday, May 7th, 5-9 PM at the Mermaid Cafe, 1929 Winnebego Street, Madison, Wisconsin.

The paintings will be at the Mermaid for a week after the show.