LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The City of La Crosse is moving forward in its mission to tackle the PFAS problem on French Island. First News at Nine’s David LaClair shares the latest on how the city is helping community members find answers.
Some hope may be on the horizon for Town of Campbell residents affected by PFAS.
Thursday, the city worked with law firms Crueger Dickinson and Napoli Shkolnik in filing a lawsuit in the Wisconsin Circuit Court against manufacturers of PFAS chemicals.
The City of La Crosse was required to use firefighting foam containing the chemicals at the city-owned La Crosse Regional Airport. Those chemicals have since spread to over 100 private wells nearby.
“Litigations over these companies with the firefighting foam have been going on for several years now,” said Erin Dickinson, co-counsel on the lawsuit and co-owner of Crueger Dickinson LLC. “If fact, my firm and the Napoli firm that’s representing the City of La Crosse have been helping to lead that litigation nationwide.”
Both firms look to litigate the case on the federal level, and if nothing is resolved they will come back to Wisconsin for a trial.
“Our law firms have been litigating these cases and know a ton about this issue, and what we really hope is that the whole community starts to work together against what we believe are the real responsible parties,” Dickinson added.
35th District State Senator Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) and 95th District State Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) also look to push Governor Evers’ 2021-23 budget proposal for PFAS research and funding.
“The state of Wisconsin will provide up to $20 million dollars, $10 million annually, $20 million over the biennum, for a municipal grant program that will allow municipalities to assist their homeowners when it comes to temporary assistance to drinking water,” said Pfaff.
“[Gov. Evers] included over $1.6 million dollars and 11 staff at the DNR to develop and implement a statewide PFAS action plan, and $2.1 million dollars in statewide monitoring and testing for PFAS,” said Billings.
Until further action is taken, however, leaders say what people can do now is reach out to make their voices heard.
In the meantime, the law firms also look to start community outreach.
“This is sort of the beginning for us, and we really hope to get education and collaboration and discussion going in the community in general, because it’s something the whole community has an interest in,” Dickinson said. “I think the message I would miss if I didn’t communicate is just how seriously the city is taking this issue. Bringing litigation of this kind against huge companies is a big step, and the city really believed that was important.”
They say it’s a step moving forward in holding the right party accountable and assuring clean water for all.
David LaClair, First News at Nine.
The budget proposal is set to be approved in June. Dickinson and the state legislature are encouraging homeowners who are not sure if their well has PFAS to get them tested.