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Great Lakes Article:

Group worried ethanol plant would affect water supply

Article courtesy of the Duluth News Tribune


OSHKOSH, Wis. -- A group formed to oppose a planned ethanol plant in the town of Algoma is worried the project will affect the area's water supply.

The plant proposed by Algoma Ethanol LLC would need up to 300 gallons of water a minute. The $30 million plant would convert corn to ethanol, a gasoline additive.

Earlier this summer, more than 500 people signed a petition opposing the plant, citing concerns about odor, noise and traffic. Now people are worried the plant would affect the level of arsenic in their water supply.

"Odor is certainly one of the concerns, but I think the water issue is the bigger one,'' said John Ingala, an activist with Stop the Ethanol Plant Now.

The company recently sent its permit application seeking to draw between 200 and 300 gallons of water per minute to the state Department of Natural Resources, said Phil Bender, Algoma Ethanol's project manager.

Most town wells draw from a sandstone aquifer that runs through 23 counties in eastern Wisconsin.

Arsenic-bearing minerals in aquifers are exposed to oxygen when water tables drop because of overpumping. The oxygen reacts with the minerals to dissolve the arsenic, which then contaminates the water in the aquifer.

The University of Wisconsin Extension prepared a study for Algoma Ethanol that suggests a well built for the plant wouldn't significantly affect water levels or the amount of arsenic in area wells.

The report by hydrogeologist Madeline Gotkowitz looks into a high-capacity well that would tap a deeper water source than the one used by residential wells. The well would allow the company to meet its needs without affecting the town's water supply, she said.

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