PFAS contamination of well leads to emergency water for homeowner

    Foam products used by firefighters contain PFAS. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

    A Marinette homeowner has been given emergency water by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), after PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) were detected in the person’s private well. The water was tested by the homeowner, and is just one such contaminated well in the Marinette Peshtigo area.

    Under the oversight of the DNR, Johnson Controls Inc. and its subsidiary, Tyco Fire Products, have been identified as responsible for the contamination. The DNR has directed the private companies to conduct investigations of the impact of PFAS contamination related to their operations on the area.

    The property with the contaminated well is situated near a groundwater study area for PFAS contamination. According to a DNR press release, the state agency first offered Johnson Controls Inc. and Tyco a chance to re-test the well water and provide emergency supplies to the homeowner. The private entities, however, declined the offer. The debacle is compelling the DNR to expand the groundwater study area and any investigations conducted by Johnson Controls.

    PFAS contamination has become an increasingly pressing issue in the state over the last year. Recently, contaminated foam was detected in waterways near Madison. Battling the spread of the long-lasting and potentially harmful chemicals also became a key part of  a report compiled by the state’s water quality task force.

    The chemicals are part of a group of compounds, which stem from artificial products like fast food wrappers, non-stick cooking ware, and fire fighting foam. Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board (NRB) also moved to establish a new rule-making process for PFAS water levels in October 2019.

    Listening sessions will be held by the DNR, in the hopes of providing the public with timely information about the Marinette-Peshtigo area contamination. The next session will take place on Jan. 15, at noon and 6 p.m, at the Community REC Center at 2501 Pierce Ave, Marinette.

    Isiah Holmes
    Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.