In Ong, a new well, but few people 

ONG, Neb.   Fewer than 50 people remain in Ong, Nebraska, an old railroad village in Clay County. Homes lining the streets headed into town are boarded up, and main street is silent. A grain elevator still operates here, but otherwise there is little else going on. 

 

“We are getting smaller every year,” said Dennis Hansen, chairman of the Ong village board. 

“People are moving out and not coming back. The elevator is the only thing in town that’s open.” 

 

That’s why Hansen, 73, a retired farmer, laughs when asked how much it will cost the village to drill a new drinking water well: Up to $250,000. 

 

That’s about $12,500 per hook-up. 

 

“We only have 20 hook ups in town so that’s kind of a ridiculous amount of money to spend on that as far as our thinking is concerned,” he said. 

 

Ong has been under an administrative order to find a clean source of water for its residents since 20XX when water from its only well showed 12 parts per million of nitrate. The federal standard is 10 parts per million. 

 

The fix? The village will have to drill a new water well - a deeper one - which test well results showed had clean water. I

 

Ong is not alone. Four Nebraska communities are under administrative order because their drinking water exceeds 10 parts per million of nitrate and another XX are under quarterly sampling orders because nitrate levels are rising to nearly unsafe levels. 

 

To understand why Ong, and other Nebraska communities are having to pay millions of dollars to fix their drinking water problems, one needs to understand how most Nebraskans get drinking water: straight from the ground. 

 

Ninety-percent of Nebraskans get their tap water (CQ) from the ground, but in larger cities that water goes through a treatment plant before it comes out of the tap. 

 

In many rural communities, water is pumped straight from the ground to homes. Drinking water gets contaminated with nitrate when fertilizer from irrigated corn and soybean fields runs off or seeps into the ground and into the groundwater. 

 

Hansen said the village has signed a contract with an engineering firm. The money to pay for the new well will have to come from a USDA loan. (I have to CQ this)  

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2019 Jessica Fargen Walsh

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