La Crosse County residents near French Island to get wells tested for PFAS contamination

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Many people on La Crosse County’s French Island are concerned about high contamination levels of PFAS affecting their well water. The contamination is believed to be coming from firefighting equipment being used nearby. First News at Nine’s David LaClair has details.

Mitch Brohmer, the Town of Campbell Utilities Supervisor said, “It has to do with the health of our residents and the safety of their water to use for drinking, cooking, bathing.”

Brohmer has seen the impact caused by PFAS on French Island after the city of La Crosse discovered PFAS chemicals in municipal wells near the La Crosse Regional Airport in 2020.

PFAS is a chemical foam used by firefighters since the 1970s including for training on airport premises and is a major cause for contamination of nearby residents’ private wells.

“PFAS is becoming a major problem across the country wherever the firefighting foam has been used whether it’s in training or actual events, but it’s particularly a major problem for communities like us who don’t have a municipal water system,” said Brohmer.

That is why the city partnered with John Storlie with Environmental Consulting Firm the OS Group to start testing about 130 residents’ wells last fall. 

Storlie said, “Private water sampling began in late October 2020 and has continued up until last week and we’ll continue to sample those private wells in the target sampling areas.”

Brohmer said, “Some of the wells tested above what’s acceptable and some below, it’s about half and half. If they’re above 20 parts per trillion makes the water unsafe to drink.”

Concerns like thyroid problems, higher cholesterol levels, and even long-term risk of cancer,” said Storlie.

The city plans to continue sampling about 50 wells both west of the airport and to the south of I-90 within the next few weeks.

“We’re very early in the process at this point. PFAS is a forever chemical, it doesn’t break down, so it’s going to be a problem for some time,” said Brohmer.

This is why Storlie says if you live in the area, and haven’t had your well tested, you should right away.

In La Crosse County, David LaClair, First News at Nine.

The testing is costing about a half-million dollars for the city, and those who have shown high levels have received bottled water to drink.

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