EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The Chippewa Valley Regional Airport announced that its consultant, AECOMTechnical Services, Inc., has submitted a recommended site investigation work plan to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources related to the investigation of suspected Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination at the airport.
According to a release from the CVRA, PFAS compounds are found in a wide variety of products that people use daily, including rain repellant clothing, non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers and firefighting foam that airports are required to use by the Federal Aviation Administration.
All airports with airline service, including CVRA, are mandated by the FAA to have Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting capability during airline operations. Part of the mandate by the FAA includes the use of firefighting foam that meets a certain specification for rapid extinguishment of aircraft fires.
The CVRA said currently, the only approved firefighting foam meeting FAA requirements contains PFAS.
Charity Zich, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport Director, said CVRA has already limited its use of firefighting foam.
“In the interest of public safety, the airport and other organizations providing fire protection at the airport, have followed the federal mandates required to continue providing airline service to our community,” Zich said. “With that same public safety interest in mind, the airport has already limited its use of firefighting foam to emergency use only and invested in equipment to eliminate the need to use foam during FAA required annual testing.”
She said the sight investigation work plan focuses on locations where firefighting foam was used on airport property.
“They try to identify potential sources or areas PFAS may have been used in the past and now they’ll target those and get some kind of ground-truth data,” said WDNR Hydrogeologist Matt Thompson.
The chemicals were discovered in Eau Claire’s groundwater in July. Since then, the city has taken all contaminated wells offline.
Thomas wanted to make something clear: the city’s tap water is safe.
“I think that’s important anytime we talk about this situation that the citizens understand that or, you know, that we say that because the city really is going above and beyond to make sure that the water is safe. It’s their obligation and that’s our number one priority,” he said.
The WDNR has 60 days to review and respond to the site investigation work plan with suggested changes or approval. It is anticipated work will begin in early 2022.