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Molybdenum in groundwater

Molybdenum (Mo) is a metallic element that is naturally present, usually at low levels, in the earth’s crust. Trace amounts of molybdenum are necessary for human health, and are obtained from common foods in the diet such as leafy vegetables, legumes, grains and organ meats. Higher concentrations have been found in soil or groundwater, typically in conjunction with spills or some historic waste disposal practices. Residents are advised to avoid the extremely low risk associated with future molybdenum exposures by not consuming water that contains molybdenum above the Wisconsin health advisory level of 90 micrograms per liter (μg/L). Naturally-occurring levels of molybdenum in groundwater are low; U.S. Geologic Survey found a median value of 1 μg/L nationwide. Most well owners do not need to include molybdenum during annual well testing.

Molybdenum in southeast Wisconsin

Molybdenum concentrations above the state health advisory level were found in monitoring wells and private water supply wells in southeast Wisconsin. A two-year DNR study was unable to determine the origin of the elevated levels of molybdenum.

Who should test

The department, along with the state Department of Health Services (DHS) and local health officials, recommend that residents using private wells in sections with molybdenum results at 90 or greater and adjacent sections should sample and test their well water for molybdenum. This testing can be done along with recommended annual testing for bacteria and nitrates. Testing cost ranges from $13 to $45.

Testing your well water

Get started
vent pipe

Contact a certified laboratory that can test your water for a specific contaminant.

Collect a water sample properly
river wetlanad

The laboratory you work through will provide you with a water sampling kit. You can watch a demonstration showing basic methods for properly collecting a water sample to yield accurate results.


The DNR welcomes voluntarily-provided results of well testing to identify areas of elevated molybdenum. You can authorize [PDF] the laboratory to send test results or email them to Bill Phelps.

Health information

Staff at the DHS recently completed a comprehensive review of molybdenum health studies. If you have molybdenum in your drinknig water, this information can help you decide whethor you need to seek an alternative supply of drinking water.

Treatment

The Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) has approved water treatment devices for molybdenum and boron. The total device cost ranges from $400 to $1000 depending on model and labor.

Water treatment devices

DSPS products register, sorted:

A licensed pump installer, well driller or similar water industry professional should be hired to correctly install an appropriate treatment device.

» Contact lists for well drillers and pump installers

More information

Molybdenum in southeast Wisconsin Eric Nitschke
414-263-8570
Drinking water, wells and well testing Zoe McManama
262-822-7730
Caledonia Groundwater Molybdenum Investigation Frank Schultz
414-263-8694
Molybdenum health issues Elizabeth Truslow-Evans
Dept. of Health Services (DHS)
608-266-3393
Molybdenum treatment Glen Schlueter
Dept. of Safety & Professional Services (DSPS)
608-267-1401
Last revised: Wednesday August 07 2013