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Plans Emerge to Fix Signor Water Problem

By Joe Morey

News Editor

A meeting was held between LCO Public Works, Realty Services, LCO Development and members of the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) with Brian Breuer of the Indian Health Service, Rhinelander Office, to discuss the ongoing water situation in the community of Signor off Hwy 27/70 at the south end of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation.

Willard Gouge, Public Works Director, stated in a letter to TGB that his department sampled the water in early April for: pH, Temperature, Alkalinity, Total Dissolved Solids, Lead and Copper, Iron and Manganese, Nitrate, Nitrite and hardness.

“After a preliminary examination of the results, it was found that the problems in Signor are due to increased amounts of Manganese and Iron,” Gouge explained. “These would cause discoloration and funky taste in the water. These exceedances are what is called Secondary MCL (maximum contaminant level) exceedances and not necessarily a risk to human health.”

Gouge went on to say that Breuer said Signor may have a Deficiency Level 1 or 2 problem and that only Deficiency Levels 3 are Primary MCL’s which would look something like lead and copper exceedance or other such things like radionucleides, or Nitrate/Nitrite problems, which would have an immediate and detrimental effect to human health.

Gouge summed it up by stating, according to Breuer, “These naturally occurring elements do not have an immediate negative health effect on human health, and therefore do not score in the funding range for federal intervention.”

Gouge told LCO News there are currently three options the Tribe is considering.

The first is to, “Build a water system after identifying a good well source. There may be an existing well available that we could utilize. We may very well drill a new well. We do have funding from Indian Health Service to complete a couple of more sampling projects and dig a test well. We may have limited funding available from Indian Health Service, but we would expect to use our own funding for this project. We will also be reaching out to USDA for 306 (c) grant funding.”

Gouge added Public Works could install water treatments in the homes as another option.

“The cost benefit is great, but we cannot be assured that the homeowners or renters will properly maintain these units. LCO Housing only provides salts for these units, and they find it difficult to maintain and service. We cannot be assured that homeowners would properly maintain these units or provide the salts needed.”

The third option Gouge noted was to do nothing.

“This is always presented as an option, but we are leaning more towards option one,” Gouge explained. “However, nothing is set in stone.”

In the letter to TGB, Gouge mentioned the cost of building a new pumphouse and distribution system would cost about $1 million and wouldn’t be funded by IHS. He added that under this plan, Public Works would be in charge of the system and would monitor water on a regular basis, such as they do with Drytown and New Post systems.

LCO TGB member Tweed Shuman stated the TGB is considering drilling the test well right away this summer and that they are also moving to fund the project.

Gouge said Public Works will continue to investigate the situation and have a more definitive goal when the group meets again on June 3rd.


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