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.