Manufacturer Finds No PFAS In Most Wells
Fire fighting foam maker tested wells in Marinette County. DNR says more tests needed.
A manufacturer of firefighting foam says the majority of more than 250 drinking water wells it’s tested in Marinette County turned up no trace of toxic chemicals known as PFAS. But state regulators say it’s too early to tell the scope of PFAS contamination within drinking water in the area.
Found in everyday products, the so-called “forever chemicals” have raised concern because they don’t break down easily in the environment, and they’ve been linked to an increased risk of some cancers. The sampling of wells in the Marinette region is part of an ongoing investigation into PFAS contamination stemming from a fire training facility at Tyco Fire Products in Marinette.
Tyco, which is part of Johnson Controls International, said in a May 14 update that 69 percent or 185 wells had no detectable levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. There were 247 out of 269 wells tested in the Town of Peshtigo and near farm fields in Porterfield that had PFAS levels below the federal health advisory level (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).
“Using the Federal HAL as a guideline, a person could drink an unlimited number of glasses of water daily, containing PFOA and PFOS levels up to 70 ppt, without risking illness,” said Tyco in the update.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended a more restrictive standard for groundwater of 20 parts per trillion in order to protect public health, although enforcement standards are still being crafted. There were 38 wells or 14 percent of those sampled that had PFAS levels above the state’s recommendation.
Haag said Tyco and Johnson Controls have yet to finish sampling private wells near farm fields where treated sewage sludge known as biosolids had been spread. The Marinette wastewater treatment plant had previously notified the state of significant levels of PFAS within biosolids.
“When COVID-19 struck, there was a delay, and now they will be resuming and sampling the remainder of the wells that hadn’t been sampled yet,” said Haag.
The company tested 98 wells before suspending sampling in mid-March, and there are 73 wells that remain to be tested. The DNR directed Johnson Controls to sample wells near fields in July last year, but the company didn’t begin testing until March of this year.
“In the biosolids sampling area, as soon as the preliminary results were received for the initial set of tests, Tyco voluntarily provided bottled water to 6 residents whose wells had detections over the Wisconsin interim standard of 20 ppt,” said Fraser Engerman in an email, spokesman for Johnson Controls.
Haag said the number of wells that remain to be sampled is still being determined.
“It’s likely that we would ask them to do a well survey to ensure that there aren’t additional wells in those areas that are potentially affected,” said Haag, referring to wells with detectable PFAS levels.
Tyco is scheduled to resume sampling on Friday, May 22, since the state’s stay-at-home order is no longer in effect. The company’s environmental consultant, Arcadis, is reaching out to residents to gain permission to continue sampling and plans to take steps to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.
“(W)e will now be taking samples from outdoor water spigots rather than inside the residence, if at all possible,” detailed Engerman. “If we need to test inside the residence, we have developed a protocol to maintain social distancing and limit any direct contact within the home. Some of these measures include the use of additional personal protective equipment including face masks and gloves.”
The company hopes to wrap up sampling by July 4.
Johnson Controls said it has provided bottled water to 131 residents since late 2017 and installed 40 water treatment systems in homes with elevated PFAS levels.
Haag said the DNR also expects the company to work on a site investigation work plan to look at soil, groundwater and surface water around fields where biosolids had been spread.
Recent sampling results from the Marinette wastewater treatment plant show that levels of PFAS chemicals in its biosolids holding tank have declined since sampling was conducted in 2018. Follow-up sampling also shows a decline in PFAS within wastewater stemming from Tyco/Johnson Controls sites.
The DNR attributed the decline to the company relining old pipes that may have been susceptible to contaminated groundwater seeping in.
However, levels of the chemicals increased in wastewater coming from ChemDesign Products, which is another company responsible for cleaning up PFAS contamination. The DNR said it’s unclear what may have been the cause, and the source of contamination is part of the ongoing investigation.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Firefighting Foam Manufacturer Says Most Wells Tested So Far Turned Up No Trace Of 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