Johnson Controls Must Expand Inspection of PFAS Pollution
DNR requiring the company to look further for pollution from forever chemicals.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is directing a Marinette manufacturer of firefighting foam to expand its investigation of drinking water that might be contaminated by so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS.
There’s been growing concern about perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. The chemicals are found in products ranging from firefighting foam to nonstick cookware, and they’ve been linked to harmful health issues including cancer.
In letters this week, the DNR directed Tyco Fire Products and Johnson Controls International to sample drinking water wells for 36 PFAS chemicals over a larger area surrounding Tyco’s fire training center due to the volume and variety of compounds released there. The agency is also requiring them to sample drinking water wells near 61 fields in Marinette County, according to Christine Haag, the DNR’s director of remediation and redevelopment.
“The first thing we’ve asked them to do is conduct that sample of wells, contact those property owners and sample that drinking water to ensure that the drinking water isn’t impacted by PFAS,” said Haag.
The DNR is requiring the company to submit a site investigation work plan for greater sampling around its facility, a plan for providing water alternatives and an updated long-term drinking water sampling plan for the area. The agency expects Johnson Controls to inventory wells and contact homeowners in the expanded area around its facility within the next two weeks, with sampling slated to begin by April 1.
Johnson Controls will also conduct a survey of wells within 1,200 feet of 61 fields where treated sewage sludge, or biosolids, from the Marinette wastewater treatment plant has been spread. The city previously informed the agency it had found significant levels of the chemicals in the treated waste.
Around 240 landowners are within the affected area, according to figures provided to the DNR. Haag said Johnson Controls plans to send letters to landowners requesting access to conduct sampling by the end of this week.
“We’re particularly concerned about making sure that those drinking water (from) wells are tested right away so that we know that those people are drinking clean, safe drinking water,” said Haag.
Haag said the geology of the area, which includes fractured bedrock, and the nature of the chemicals makes people who rely on private drinking water wells susceptible to PFAS contamination. That sampling is expected to begin by March 3. The agency first directed Johnson Controls to submit a work plan for field sampling in July. The company provided its plan in November.
Once samples are submitted to a lab for testing, it may take up to several weeks before results are available.
Johnson Controls has said its provided bottled water to 125 residents since November 2017 and installed 38 water treatment systems at homes with elevated levels of PFAS. Through last June, the company has tested 168 drinking water wells, of which 58 have tested positive for the chemicals. There have been 29 wells with PFAS levels greater than the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommended groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion.
Federal standards for drinking water have not yet been developed for the chemicals, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. The agency announced Thursday that it’s moving forward on regulating two of the most widely studied PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS.
Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Johnson Controls, declined a request for an interview. He said the company is reviewing the letters from the agency.
Johnson Controls will also be required to report on its activities and submit a work plan investigating possible air, surface water and storm water pathways for the chemicals within 60 days.
State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, issued a statement late Wednesday, saying that it was “unfortunate” that it took Johnson Controls months to address sampling of fields in the area.
“Last November, I called on JCI to conduct testing around fields in Marinette County that were historically used for landspreading of municipal wastewater treatment biosolids,” said Nygren. “These biosolids were contaminated with PFAS as a result of firefighting foam by JCI/Tyco. This testing is critical to determining the extent of contamination in Marinette County. JCI’s refusal to comply with the DNR’s request unnecessarily delayed a resolution for affected citizens.”
The DNR referred the company to the state Department of Justice last May, alleging the company failed to report and take action to address contamination.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found Tyco knew of soil and well contamination at its facility in 2013 — long before the company reported they may have spread from its fire training facility. A spokesman told the newspaper there wasn’t the same level of awareness at the time surrounding the chemicals.
Listen to the WPR report here.
DNR Directs Johnson Controls To Expand Drinking Water Sampling For PFAS was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
More about the PFAS Problem
- How State Reopening is Affecting PFAS Testing - Isiah Holmes - May 23rd, 2020
- Manufacturer Finds No PFAS In Most Wells - Danielle Kaeding - May 20th, 2020
- PFAS, Other Pollutants Found In Rivers - Isiah Holmes - May 11th, 2020
- PFAS Found In Sediment and Surface Water At Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - May 7th, 2020
- Johnson Controls Wants Pause in PFAS Testing - Isiah Holmes - Apr 26th, 2020
- DNR Directs JCI/Tyco To Provide Emergency Drinking Water for Three Homeowners On Private Wells Near JCI/Tyco Biosolid Applied Fields Investigation Area After Sampling Results Show High Levels of PFAS Contamination - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Apr 14th, 2020
- State DNR Forges Ahead on ‘Forever Chemicals’ - Danielle Kaeding - Apr 7th, 2020
- Johnson Controls Must Expand Inspection of PFAS Pollution - Danielle Kaeding - Feb 22nd, 2020
- Assembly attempts to provide political cover while constituents suffer the consequences - Wisconsin Conservation Voters - Feb 21st, 2020
- Campaign Cash: Big Money Groups Oppose PFAS Regulation - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Feb 15th, 2020
- Baldwin Calling on EPA to Deliver on Promises Made in PFAS Action Plan - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Feb 14th, 2020
- Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) Developing PFAS Action Plan For State - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Feb 4th, 2020
- Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Push $10M Clean Water Fund - Danielle Kaeding - Jan 31st, 2020
- DNR Working On New PFAS Rules - Erik Gunn - Jan 24th, 2020
- What Are PFAS Chemicals? - Christy Remucal - Jan 15th, 2020
- DNR Providing Emergency Drinking Water to Homeowner with PFAS Contamination Near JCI Investigation Area - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jan 10th, 2020
- Senate Debates PFAS in Firefighting Foam - Danielle Kaeding - Jan 9th, 2020
- DNR Confirms PFAS-Containing Foam Found at the Mouth of Starkweather Creek and Lake Monona - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Dec 19th, 2019
- Why PFAS Pollution Is So Scary - Erik Gunn - Nov 18th, 2019
- Op Ed: Everyone Deserves Clean Water - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Nov 4th, 2019
- Few Local Water Systems Test for PFAS - Danielle Kaeding - Oct 30th, 2019
- MKE County: High PFAS Levels Found at Airport - Graham Kilmer - Oct 24th, 2019
- State Board Okays Rules on PFAS Pollution - Isiah Holmes - Oct 24th, 2019
- DNR Releases PFAS Contamination Data - Erik Gunn - Oct 8th, 2019
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Presses Trump Administration for Urgency on Addressing PFAS Contamination in Water - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Sep 25th, 2019
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Pressing for Answers on Reports of Efforts to Weaken Contamination Standards for PFAS - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 25th, 2019