A Marquette University associate professor who has been leading a research team studying Kewaunee County waterways since the fall of 2015 says impairment of the county’s surface water “poses concerns for fishing, recreation, and drinking water wells of local residents.”

Krassimira Hristova and two of her students presented their findings during a program Thursday at Algoma Elementary School auditorium that was sponsored by Kewaunee CARES (Citizens Advocating Responsibility Environmental Stewardship).

Organization co-founder Lynn Utesch said Hristova is an associate professor of biological sciences at Marquette whose research focus is studying the role of microbial communities in contaminated environments.

“Her overarching research question is, How does human pollution impact environmental and human health?” Utesch said.

Krassimira Hristova

Krassimira Hristova

“What we’re trying to bring here is the difficult problem of point and non-point source pollution and if it’s related to the process of big farms and also several small farms and a couple of wastewater treatment plants that are here in a relatively small area,” Hristova said.

Research assistants Michael Walsh and Rachelle Beattie shared the data from water samples collected in every season since the fall of 2015 along the Ahnapee, Kewaunee and East Twin rivers.

Among their conclusions:

+ E. coli and coliform bacteria are present at levels higher than allowable EPA standards for recreational water in Kewaunee rivers.

+ Nitrate is present above drinking water standards at multiple sites.

+ The presence of low concentrations of hormones and pharmaceuticals in the water poses a potential threat for chronic exposure to aquatic life and humans.

+ Pathogenic bacteria that is resistant to multiple antibiotics are residing within river sediment.

Hristova said the water pollution problem could be mitigated with changes in environmental policy and implementing technologies to provide clean water to county residents. On a broader scale she suggested regulating or stopping the use of antibiotics in feed for farm animals and not tossing unused or expired medications in the trash.

Kewaunee County is accepting pharmaceuticals as part of its Clean Sweep Day from 8 to 11:30 a.m. April 22 at the Hillside Highway Department Shop, E2180 Wisconsin 54, Casco.

The Marquette research team’s study is expected to be published this summer.

– – – – –

Establish a voluntary monthly subscription at Patreon.com, or invest in local independent online news with a check to Kewaunee County Comet, P.O. Box 405, Luxemburg, WI 54217.