Luczaj project finds strontium in NE Wisconsin well water

The University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute on Tuesday (Jan. 14) released the results of a study in which researchers found significant levels of strontium in well water samples collected near Green Bay. The project was the work of UW-Green Bay geoscientist John Luczaj, associate professor of Natural and Applied Sciences, in collaboration with chemist and NAS colleague Associate Prof. Michael Zorn, and graduate student Joseph Baeten.

The type of strontium found in the tests occurs naturally as minerals dissolve in the aquifer. The team collected 115 water samples from municipal and private wells in Brown and Outagamie counties and found nearly two-thirds with strontium levels above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory limit of 4 mg/L, and six water samples above 25 mg/L, exceeding short-term consumption guidelines. Children who regularly ingest those levels face an increased risk of tooth enamel mottling, strontium rickets and related bone-development irregularities. Although the project had a geologic/groundwater emphasis, the researchers also tested several household samples of water treated with water softeners and found them effective at removing 97 percent of the dissolved strontium. (Municipal systems using groundwater in the affected area are slightly less effective.) Luczaj has these suggestions for people in the counties with high strontium: “If they are drinking water-softened water or reverse-osmosis water, there’s probably little strontium in it,” he said. “But if they have young children and they are in the high-strontium area, they should definitely have their water tested.”

For more details on the research, see the research institute’s news release.

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