State health officials have issued a water advisory for thousands of residents of the French islands over concerns over PFAS contamination of private drinking water wells.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, several state agencies are making free bottled water available to as many as 4,300 residents who depend on 1,200 private wells. MNR works with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), National Guard, and Wisconsin Emergency Management to provide water to residents. The advisory is expected to remain in effect for at least the next 90 days.
MNR said Thursday that 185 private wells sampled by the agency and residents show concentrations of PFAS in all but one of the deep water wells. About a third of those samples – 61 wells – had PFAS levels exceeding the state’s recommended standard for groundwater of 20 parts per trillion.
“MNR and DHS will continue to work with residents of the French island, town, city and county officials to help them provide emergency drinking water to address these concerns.” and ultimately to identify the sources of PFAS on the island and take actions to provide permanent water and clean-up from soil and groundwater contamination, ”said Darsi Foss, director of the division of environmental management of the MRN.
The town of La Crosse is part of an ongoing investigation into the contamination of PFAS on the island from the regional airport of La Crosse. MNR launched the investigation last year after MNR reported PFAS in two town wells, which have since been decommissioned.
Contamination has been identified in the soil and groundwater on the airport property and in the groundwater south of the airport due to the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS. The La Crosse Fire Department tested fire fighting foam containing PFAS in burners at the site from the 1970s to the 1980s. The foam was also used to respond to aircraft crashes at the site over the years. decades.
State health officials and environmental regulators say a drinking water advisory in the area is warranted as the source (s) of contamination outside the city’s current survey area are currently unknown .
“This notice allows the state to take measures to provide an alternative supply of drinking water to prevent potential exposures to PFAS among households in the French islands, including those that contain vulnerable individuals or do not have the means. to continue testing and mitigation, ”said Curtis Hedman, DHS. toxicologist.
La Crosse provided bottled water to 54 residents whose wells had PFAS levels exceeding the state’s recommended standard for groundwater. MNR will provide bottled water to area residents who currently do not receive city water, which could cost the agency $ 200,000 or more depending on the number of people requesting it.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Friday that La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat had refused to provide bottled water to residents with PFAS levels below the state recommended standard, even though regulators of the state urged them to do so.
State agencies will provide cases of bottled water through donations from Hy-Vee, Kwik Trip and CVS which will be available for pickup from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Olivet Lutheran Church and the Days Inn on the French island.
Residents with private wells will be offered the option of receiving five gallon containers of bottled water that will be delivered to their homes. The state contracts with Culligan to provide bottled water.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, have raised concerns about their impact on public health. The chemicals are found in fire fighting foams and everyday products, and they do not break down easily in the environment. PFAS has been linked to health problems, including cancer, thyroid disease, and reproductive issues.
The city of La Crosse recently filed a lawsuit against 23 chemical companies including manufacturers of fire fighting foam, claiming to know the harmful effects of PFAS in their products without informing customers.
The MNR is analyzing 92 other samples from private wells and will decide whether to continue or modify the drinking water advisory based on these results, which are expected within the next 30 days.