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Well Water in Karst Regions of Northeastern Wisconsin Contains Estrogenic Factors, Nitrate, and Bacteria

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Well water in karst regions is particularly susceptible to contamination by various nonpoint source pollutants such as nitrate, fecal bacteria, and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). This study analyzed 40 wells in heavily farmed karst areas of northeastern Wisconsin to determine whether these and other pollutants are present, and if so, whether their presence is (1) correlated with other contaminants and (2) exhibits seasonal variation. Nitrate, bacteria, and estrogenicity (indicating the presence of EDCs) were present in at least some of well water samples collected over the course of four time periods between the summers of 2008 and 2009. Although estrogenicity was greatest during the summer months, bacterial contamination was most prevalent during snowmelt. Levels of estrogenicity present in some well water samples approached a threshold concentration that is known to exert endocrine disruption in wildlife. Strong correlations between estrogenicity and other water quality parameters were not found.

Keywords: E-screen assay; Escherichia coli; coliform; endocrine disruptors (EDCs); enterococci; estrogenicity; groundwater; nitrate

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Program, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin. 2: Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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