Private well owners are concerned about city ordinance amendments that would require them to connect to the city's water mains.
"I think there needs to be a logical transition from wells to city water," said Joe Grande, water quality manager for the Madison Water Utility, at an informational meeting Monday evening.
Section 13.07 of city ordinance states that any building used for "human habitation" must be connected with the city water main. Well owners can apply for exemptions for various reasons, and the Water Utility Board is considering broadening the criteria for exemptions.
The portion of the ordinance known as the "service connection requirement" would apply to about 90 wells. Grande estimated that 20 of these would be temporarily exempted, based on impractical site conditions.
The Common Council passed the ordinances back in December, and well owners received notice about the changes over the last month or so, said Ald. Lauren Cnare, a Water Utility Board member. Implementation is currently suspended while the board hears well owners' concerns. Monday's forum was a chance for the more than 40 well owners present to make their case.
Well owners said they didn't want to be "at the mercy" of the Water Utility. They are also reluctant to pay the potentially high fees it would cost to connect to city water.
"If I had bad water, I'd be dead already," one well owner said. "I've had [my well] for 48 years."
The Water Utility's motivations for the changes were unclear to some well owners. Some are concerned that these changes just a way to raise revenue.
"It's just been really difficult to feel that there is any transparency in why this came about," said well owner Terry Cohn, who owns a 150-year-old well on her farm just outside the city.
Grande explained that as Madison has expanded, lots are located farther away from city water mains. He said private wells eventually fail, and when they do, it's difficult for the city to assist property owners who are not connected to the water system.
However, some private well owners do not see the merit in preemptive connection.
"If our well fails, then let us hook up," said one.
Several well owners contended that discussion of the ordinance changes should have occurred before they were passed in December. Grande and Cnare apologized for this, but stressed a need to move forward.
The Water Utility Board will most likely make more amendments before connections are implemented, a process Grande said will probably take months.
Cnare confirmed this pace: "I don't think you can look forward to any implementation anytime soon."